Disaster must not be repeated
BILLINGS, Mont. -- Members of the Northern Plains Resource Council, a Montana-based, grass-roots conservation and family agriculture group, wrote a letter to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer addressing the recent oil spill in the Yellowstone River n...
BILLINGS, Mont. -- Members of the Northern Plains Resource Council, a Montana-based, grass-roots conservation and family agriculture group, wrote a letter to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer addressing the recent oil spill in the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Mont.:
"The Exxon pipeline rupture shows that pipeline leaks can and do happen, and that it is a disaster when landowners, emergency responders and community officials are not adequately prepared for such an occurrence. We are landowners along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route and downstream from the Missouri and Yellowstone river crossings who are concerned about the impact that another spill would have on our families' health, water quality and ability to make a living on the land in Montana.
"The Keystone XL will be nine times the size of the Exxon pipeline that recently ruptured -- with exponentially larger impacts should there be a spill. The Keystone I pipeline, which runs through North Dakota, has had 12 leaks in its first year of operation. Because the Keystone XL pipeline needs a permit from the state of Montana, we call on you to protect Montanans along the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers by:
"n Requiring that TransCanada provide a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan for public review before issuance of a permit.
"n Requiring that all disturbed land be reclaimed, in consultations with soil scientists familiar with the region.
"n Requiring a comprehensive engineering study of pipeline pressures and worst-case spill risks specific to KXL.
"n Requiring that if a person's water supply is contaminated by construction or pipeline operation, all costs associated with finding and providing a permanent water supply of comparable quality and quantity be covered, as well as any other damages, including but not limited to any consequences, medical or otherwise, related to water contamination.
"n Requiring that the pipeline bear liability for surface and water damage.
"n Requiring that all hydrologically sensitive areas are identified and a plan is implemented to protect them.
"n Requiring a certificate specifying which government agency will oversee all construction activities in Montana.
We have valid reasons for our concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline:
"n Despite its many assurances, Trans-
Canada's Keystone I pipeline produced 12 spills in its first year of operation.
"n Tar sands oil is a corrosive material. The overall Alberta pipeline system that carries tar sands oil has had approximately 16 times as many spills caused by internal corrosion than the U.S. system.
"n The Keystone pipeline is a 36-inch pipeline, and will have a transport capacity of up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day -- 20 times more than the ExxonMobil pipeline.
"n The Keystone pipeline is routed to cross the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.
"Governor, you have an opportunity to make TransCanada build its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to the highest level of safety and quality standard possible. Assurances are not enough. We are glad that you have made it your cause to make Exxon fix the mess, but there is some damage that won't ever be fixed. The best medicine is preventative, and it is time to be preventative on the Keystone XL pipeline.
"Farmers, ranchers and other landowners along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline have been treated like we are just in the way. We wish it did not take a disaster such as the Exxon spill on the Yellowstone River to show that our concerns are valid and should be taken seriously.
"The risks are real, and the impacts of a failure are real. We need to start taking those risks seriously instead of accepting the standard reassurances that everything will be OK. The permitting process for Keystone XL currently is in progress, and you are in a position to prevent a disaster from Keystone XL. Please use your position toward that end."
Editor's Note: The letter is signed by Darrell Garoutte, chairman of Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group; Tim Hess, representative committee member of Northern Plains Pipeline Landowner Group and a landowner near the Yellowstone River; and Doris Frost, Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group member and a landowner near the Yellowstone River.