Facing South

Fearing more toxic emissions, Texans speak out against Keystone XL pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries (video)

With President Obama directing federal agencies to expedite a 485-mile pipeline that will carry crude oil from Oklahoma to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, people living near those refineries are raising concerns about increasing the heavy toxic burden they already shoulder.

The pipeline is part of TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL project designed to haul tar sands oil from Canada to U.S. refineries. The administration delayed that project earlier this year following mass protests that included the encircling of the White House and civil disobedience. Since then, TransCanada has split its reapplication for the pipeline and is now focusing on the southern segment that will carry crude oil -- ostensibly from the Midwest -- to Texas refineries.

But environmental advocates are concerned that in the end the pipeline will end up carrying tar sands oil, which is much dirtier than conventional crude, with higher levels of heavy metals and other dangerous pollutants. As Anthony Swift observes in his blog for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

Here's the problem -- the Keystone XL pipeline is designed to move costly Canadian tar sands, not domestic crude, to the Gulf Coast. Not only are 90% of TransCanada's contracts to move Canadian crude, but Keystone XL only contains two spots where only limited quantities of domestic crude can be put on board. Keystone XL is a pipeline for Big Oil companies producing tar sands in Canada, where the United States will receive very little benefit. President Obama should not provide special benefits to a company that seeks to build a tar sands pipeline benefiting Canadian tar sands producers. If getting domestic crude to the market is the problem, the Canadian Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not the answer.

The refineries where the tar sands oil would be processed are located in communities that already face high levels of health-damaging emissions from refineries and other industrial operations. Most of these are working-class, minority communities, raising environmental-justice concerns.

In the following short videos from NRDC, residents of Houston and Port Arthur, Texas -- an area of the country that already has the nation's greatest density of oil refineries and petrochemical plants -- speak out about what the Keystone XL pipeline would mean for their lives and the health of their already-imperiled communities:

(Image at top is a still from NRDC's Port Arthur video.)

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Keystone XL pipeline

We are aware that oil production is stuck in the midwest because of expanding production not being able to be sent to a refinery, skewing the price of oil there. But is Keystone XL the only choice available? Why doesn't another pipeline company build it to the gulf coast? After all, this is the same Canadian company that has tried to use politics in this country to avoid the environmental restrictions their pipeline needed in vetting. How can the President now join hands with this outfit - a foreign company - that tried to go around him? The President is aware that this is another greedy oil related company that is determined to build this pipeline ultimately to bring the oil sands toxic oil through the US so it can be processed on the gulf coast for shipment abroad. They want to take this route because it is cheaper for Canada to come through the US than to take a pipeline across the Canadian Rockies to a Canadian port and build the refineries to process it from a port they need to build for shipment abroad. Canadian law probably would not allow it. But the President wants to play politics and now praises this same company. President Obama said he wanted to change the way politics works in Washington. Here he is playing the same old politics that he claims to want to change. There is no need for him to praise this company. This is the sort of thing that makes us all discouraged while admitting that he is the best available, with caveats. Republican candidates on the other hand are just hopeless.

The Republicans are not interested in anything except to get rid of a black president as they represent the racists mainly in the south, but many other places as well. The south just changed parties. First it was the Democrats who carried their flag. That ended with Civil Rights legislation. The Republicans took their place. How can such a party represent anything except prejudice and special interests no matter how they clothe it in patriotic slogans, saying it is for the benefit of the American way. How can the Republicans who want us to get into another war, this time with Iran, to put the country into even greater debt. This is the party that wants to pay off the national debt - for the American people. Such hypocrisy!

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