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Tar sands pipeline impact worries environmentalists

Golden Triangle Watchman

Check out this article. Best believe, Shell is bringing the tar sands to Port Arthur as well….

April 14, 2011

Sherry Koonce The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — BEAUMONT — A proposed pipeline project that would bring tar sands crude oil from Canada all the way to Gulf Coast refineries could pose a significant environmental threat to Southeast Texas, a group of scientific researchers and conservationists said Thursday.

The Lamar University Chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, hosted a town hall meeting to discuss what impact the proposed 1,700-mile oil pipeline called Keystone XL would have not only on Southeast Texas, but the U.S.

“I am horrified by what they are doing in Canada. This is a horribly poor pipeline and I’d like to get this thing stopped,” Bruce Drury, conservation chairman for the Big Thicket Association, said.

Carla Tucker, a Lamar instructor and hydrogeologist, warned that the pipeline would impact groundwater resources, surface water bodies, has the potential for spills, could impact the stability of a fault zone in the path of the pipeline, harm wildlife and pose health risks.

In Texas, the pipeline would cross the sensitive Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which supports 10-12 million people in 60 counties.

In the nation’s heartland, particularly Nebraska, farmers are organizing to stop the pipeline in an effort to save their land.

Because the pipeline originates in Canada and crosses the U.S. boundary, the U.S. State Department has to give its stamp of approval before the project can move forward. The state department is expected to decide whether to approve construction later this year.

Built by TransCanada, the 36-inch underground pipeline would connect the tar sands fields of northern Alberta to Texas refineries. If approved, the pipeline would become operational in 2013.

Opponents say tar sands oil is a dirty, corrosive, toxic fuel source that looks much like heavy black peanut butter.

Brittany Dawn McAllister, coordinator with Stop Tarsands Oil Pipelines, a consortium seeking to prevent the project, said people were meeting all over East Texas trying to stop the effort.

Diluted Bitumen, also called DilBit, or tar sands oil, is the most corrosive and acidic fuel in the world, McAllister said.

A supplemental environmental impact statement is expected to be released any day now, McAllister said.

The statement will call for a 45-day comment period —something opponents would like to see extended, along with added public hearings.

In addition to the environmental impact, landowners all across the U.S. are threatened by eminent domain, and don’t have much choice other than to take the deal that TransCanada offers. Land needed for the pipeline is as large as the state of Florida, McAllister said.

Not everyone is against the pipeline. McAllister said because the pipeline would be expected to bring jobs, chambers of commerces and the Better Business Bureau are pushing hard to get the pipeline through.

Others are looking at the pipeline as a way to cheapen and expand the production of crude oil.

Valero Energy Corporation has already signed up to be a customer of the Canada tar sands crude, Bill Day, executive director of media relations, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

“This would allow us to bring a steady supply of crude into Port Arthur from a favorite trading partner like Canada,” Day said.

Valero’s Port Arthur refinery has the capacity to process crude from Canada, and with the completion of the plant’s hydrocracker unit at its Port Arthur facility, the plant can process more crude, he said.

Valero currently purchases small amounts of heavy Canadian oil from Canada which is transported via ship. Because of the distance, transportation costs for the Canadian crude can be expensive, more so than markets such as Mexico and South America, where Valero gets most of its crude supply.

If the proposed pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf is built, the Canadian crude is expected to be less expensive and more efficient.

Mexican oilfields are declining, making the Canadian crude even more attractive, Day said.

“It’s not like this would be a new thing for Valero to be processing heavy oil; it would just from a different source,” Day said.

Representatives from Motiva Enterprises in Port Arthur could not immediately reached by The News for comment.

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RELATED ARTICLE

HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Proposed oil pipeline through Texas raises worries

Extract

…critics warn that the oil flowing through the 2,000-mile pipeline would come with a high environmental toll, leaving behind toxic sludge ponds and destroyed forests while producing large amounts of gases linked to climate change.

Ranchers also worry about the possibility of groundwater contamination, while some Houston-area residents say refining the crude will further foul the region’s already dirty air.

“This isn’t a hard thing for people to understand,” said Matthew Tejada of the advocacy group Air Alliance Houston. “We’re picking up Canada’s trash and dumping it in Texas.”

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