Author: Chloe Jones
On November 14th, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Republicans won majority with 252-161, marking this the ninth time the House has passed legislation for the pipeline. The Senate will vote next week before the bill moves on to the president. News of the House decision was a blow for environmentalists across Canada and the US who oppose pipeline construction. Environmental groups continue to pressure President Obama into vetoing the bill, arguing that the pipeline poses a huge threat to biodiversity.
Proposed in 2008, the pipeline would be, in some areas, an above ground oil line stretching from Alberta, Canada to south Texas. A similar, albeit shorter, pipeline called Keystone 1 has already proven the negative environmental impact of transporting oil in pipes. Since 2010, Keystone 1 has leaked thousands of gallons of oil 14 times.
The Center for Biological Diversity argues that the pipeline would have devastating effects on endangered plant and animal species along its path. Among the endangered species which would be further threatened are piping plovers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Piping_plover), mountain caribou (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Caribou), Arkansas river shiner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Notropis_girardi), the American burying beetle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Nicrophorus_americanus), and the Northern swift fox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Swift_fox). The majority of these endangered species already have populations fewer than 10,000. Pipeline spills, power lines, ground/ecosystem disturbances and the overall change in environments would greatly disturb the ecosystems of these species, possibly leading to extinction.
Loss of these endangered species would diminish biodiversity and irrevocably change plant and animal ecosystems. Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) should be analyzing the potential negative impacts of Keystone XL. However, in ignoring the dangers to endangered species, the FWS has allied itself with the capitalist gains of the pipeline.
The threats of this pipeline remind me of the disastrous 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Center for Biological Diversity estimate that the oil spill killed approximately 82,000 birds, 6,000 sea turtles and 25,000 marine mammals, including dolphins. The Keystone XL pipeline would run across thousands of miles of protected natural areas, including rivers in Montana, Yellowstone, and grasslands in the Great Plains. Each state the pipeline traverses offers important, diverse ecosystems that help maintain biodiversity across the U.S. The political push for the pipeline construction forgoes any environmental impact, instead focusing on potential capitalist gains. The Keystone XL website claims “TransCanada is committed to minimizing its environmental impact along the proposed route for Keystone XL… the project team will execute established techniques designed for the highest quality reclamation process.” However, they nowhere list what those “established techniques” are and how they differ from previous techniques which have lead to disastrous oil spills. Instead of pursuing further economic growth, we should be focused on how to maintain biodiversity and diminish further threats to endangered species.
For further reading, check out the Center for Biological Diversity here: http://www.
biologicaldiversity.org/ programs/public_lands/energy/ keystone_xl_pipeline/ and read their article “In Harm’s Way: How the U.S. State Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have ignored the dangers of the Keystone XL Pipeline to Endangered Species” here: http://www. biologicaldiversity.org/ campaigns/no_keystone_xl/pdfs/ In_Harms_Way.pdf