WSJ: Abandoning Keystone Ensures More Rail Tank-Car Spills

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 02:06 PM

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A functioning Keystone XL Pipeline would limit oil spills and environmental damage because pipelines leak less crude and clean up faster than oil-train wrecks such as the recent derailments in Virginia and Colorado, according to a Wall Street Journal commentary.

The State Department's own report proves pipes to be safer than trains, wrote Journal contributor Terry Anderson, who runs a Montana think tank for market-based environmental solutions.

The State Department report, published in February, found that pipelines in 2013 spilled less than rail tank cars even while carrying vastly more crude and petroleum. The report then estimated that a Keystone XL line moving 830,000 barrels a day of Canada's tar sands crude into the United States would cause a fraction of the accidents and spills likely with a comparable rail system.

"The report is even harsher on railroads when it comes to human injuries and fatalities," Anderson wrote. "It estimates that tank cars will generate 'an estimated 49 additional injuries and six additional fatalities' every year, compared with one additional injury and no fatalities annually for the pipeline."

No injuries occurred in last week's rail-car wreck near Denver or the April 30 derailment in downtown Lynchburg, Va. But the latter saw 30,000 gallons of oil either burn or spill into the James River. Last July's rail catastrophe near Quebec killed 47 people and spilled 1.3 million gallons.

Anderson compared that safety record to the massive Trans-Alaska Pipeline system, whose worst mishap occurred in 1978, when a hole punched into a pipe spilled 16,000 barrels and "had no disastrous effects."

"Putting the debate over the Keystone XL in this context shows the absurdity of killing the pipeline project," Anderson wrote.

"But the Obama administration appears determined to accept environmental arguments that the pipeline could leak ... and will increase global warming," Anderson wrote. "On the latter point, the State Department report again is clear that net carbon emissions won't be much different with or without the Keystone XL."

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