Public responds to proposed oil pipeline
Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel, Friday, May 13, 2011
By Marie Leonard
Members of the Nacogdoches Stop Tarsands Oil Pipelines group met at Austin Heights Baptist Church Thursday night to discuss the most recent news regarding the proposed Transcanada Keystone XL pipeline and give individuals a chance to submit their thoughts or concerns as public comments for the State Department.
Several weeks ago, the State Department released a supplemental environmental impact statement over the proposed pipeline, simultaneously announcing a 45 day public comment period. No Texas public hearings have yet to be announced by the State Department, so local STOP organizers decided to host three public hearings in East Texas and send the comments to the State Department. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to Port Arthur, passing through the western portion of Nacogdoches County.
"The SEIS is something we've been asking about for a really long time, so when we first heard about it, we thought we had a big win and we might be going somewhere with this campaign," said Brittany Dawn McAllister, STOP organizer. "Then the State Department said they weren't going to come to Texas and hear what we had to say on our own ground, and they weren't going to extend the comment period beyond 45 days."
The SEIS is more than 300 pages long, and is extremely hard to read, McAllister said.
"They expect East Texas landowners, many of whom don't have Internet, especially high speed Internet, to download 300 plus pages of a PDF and analyze it on their own and make comments in 45 days," she said. "People are holding public hearings today as part of a national day of action to remind them we are the ones affected."
Late last week, Transcanada's Keystone 1 line, which runs from Canada to Cushing, Okla., spilled 500 barrels of oil around a pump station in a rural area of North Dakota. The Calgary Herald reported the spill was contained within the station, except for oil mist which made its way to a nearby property.
"We heard about it because a landowner there called someone we work with, and he said he called their (Transcanada's) hotline," McAllister said. "He went outside and saw an oil geyser shooting off, and they thought he was joking."
Since the spill was near one of the pump stations in a rural area, it wasn't close enough to anything to cause contamination in a serious matter that anyone knows of so far, McAllister said.
"Just to compare the spill to crude oil pipelines, between 2002 and 2010, the U.S. pipeline system of 55,000 miles of crude pipelines had only two leaks of this size over the eight years," said Vicki Baggett, STOP organizer. "The U.S. system is 40 years old on average, and they (Transcanada) have this new system that's not a year old yet, but they've had 11 valve failures in 11 months."
Tiffany Sparks spoke during the meeting and had her comments recorded to send to the State Department.
"I've been in nursing for 20 years now, and I'm very concerned about the pipeline because of the high contents of arsenic, lead and mercury that's in there if it gets into the water supply," she said. "The government loves this great new health care bill, and it's probably going to have to cover our health expenses because of all the cancer and diseases that could be passed down if this stuff gets into our water supply. I'm definitely against this for all the negative health consequences it could bring about in this community and many more."
The public comment period for the SEIS ends on June 6, 2011.