'/> Uncommon Hours: New tar sands pipeline will be longer and even more dangerous than Keystone XL
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Saturday, February 16, 2013

New tar sands pipeline will be longer and even more dangerous than Keystone XL

The struggle for a stable climate comes home

Guest post by John Kurmann

While TransCanada's Keystone XL project has rightly attracted a great deal of activist and media attention, the Enbridge corporation has quietly been pursuing its own, even more dangerous project to bring diluted bitumen - “dilbit” - from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Enbridge's executives seem to have learned from the firestorm TransCanada has been engulfed by. They've proposed to expand two of their existing pipelines in order to bring dilbit from Alberta into the US rather than proposing to build a new pipeline across the Canada-US border as TransCanada did, which forced TransCanada to apply for a Presidential permit. Those existing pipelines would only get the dilbit as far as Flanagan, Illinois, however, so Enbridge still has to get it from Flanagan to the Gulf Coast - and that's where Missouri and Kansas come into the picture.

If built, Enbridge's proposed Flanagan South pipeline would run southwest from Flanagan to Cushing, Oklahoma, crossing the Mississippi River into Missouri at Quincy, Illinois. It would also cross the Missouri River and would span 11 Missouri counties, including Cass County, which is in the southern part of greater metro-Kansas City. It would enter Kansas in Linn County and pass through 5 more Kansas counties before crossing the border into Oklahoma on its way to Cushing, where it would connect to Enbridge's existing “Seaway” pipeline, which runs to Houston, Texas.

So, why is this Enbridge project more dangerous than the Keystone XL? We'll get to the details of the pipeline itself below, but perhaps the biggest reason Enbridge's proposal is more dangerous than TransCanada's is that it hasn't attracted much attention, and it also has fewer regulatory hurdles to clear. Because most of the pipelines that would make up the entire project already exist, Enbridge only needs to get approval from regulators to expand those sections. It doesn't need to acquire new rights-of-way across private and/or public land, and it's also proceeding as if it doesn't need a presidential permit for the expansion of the “Alberta Clipper” segment that crosses the national border on its way to Superior, Wisconsin. The National Wildlife Federation argues it does need to apply for such a permit, but it's unclear how that will play out in the regulatory arena or the courts.

Also, the one section of all-new pipeline that does need to be built, Flanagan South, would run parallel to the right-of-way of Enbridge's existing Spearhead pipeline for most of its nearly 600 miles, again minimizing obstacles to construction from both residents along the route and regulators.

All of this may well make it harder to stop Enbridge than TransCanada, but it may be even more important to do so because the Enbridge project would be much longer, meaning there would be more miles of pipeline to leak – and Enbridge has a long history of leaks, too long to detail here - and has the capacity to carry even more dilbit. This table is borrowed from a blogpost by Peter LaFontaine of the National Wildlife Federation:

Enbridge Expansion
Keystone XL
Enbridge, Inc.
TransCanada Corp.
2,609 miles
1,962 miles
Gallons per day (max capacity)
States crossed
$7 billion
Major waterways and aquifers crossed
Mississippi River, Missouri River, Arkansas River, Red River, Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer (TX)
Yellowstone River, Platte River, Ogallala aquifer, Arkansas River, Red River, Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer
We need to build a coalition of groups, not only in Missouri and Kansas and Illinois and Oklahoma but nationwide, to block the Flanagan South pipeline from being built. There would be no point in Enbridge shipping more dilbit from Alberta to Flanagan if it can't get it to the Gulf Coast, so Flanagan South is the crucial link. And we need to stop it not because it would run through Missouri and Kansas but because we need to keep as much of that bitumen in the ground as possible. Not in our backyard, but not in anyone else's backyard, either.
To contact John Kurmann, send an email to willowjohn@gmail.com. You can also visit his website, RethinkingtheWorld.net, to read more of his work.

1 comment:

  1. The pipeline is being constructed through Linn County, KS as we speak. It is gigantic and they are tearing the heck out of fields & the countryside to bury this monstrosity. From what I have heard, the landowners have been well compensated.