Keystone’s Communities: Underrepresented in Conversations About Implementation

For any pro-pipeliners out there, I have a question for you: if it was your town sitting on the path of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, would you still support it? 

Much of the discussion surrounding the pipeline’s implementation deals with the economics of the issue: job growth, revenue from exports, etc. What these discussions lack and honestly what almost every conversation about environmental issues lacks is humanity. It sounds kind of corny, but we’re dealing with real people here. Politicians and media alike are valuing macro issues like reduced dependency on Russia and the Middle East over micro issues like the potential of serious health risks to surrounding communities.

It’s hard, because this issue is of international scale. The ripples from this decision will reach markets in Russia and the Middle East. Canada, the supplier of land to extract the tar sands for the pipeline has obvious stake in the issue. But it is the communities that would surround the pipeline and the oil refineries that will feel the most devastating effects.

Increased risk of cancerous cell development (see previous post, Keystone Pipeline XL: Cancer Generator) and the potential of water contamination (Are Water Sources at Risk With The Keystone XL Pipeline?) are few among many of the effects that could be felt if the pipeline is passed.

Take it from someone who’s been there. Eriel Deranger, an activist and spokesperson for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is from an area in North Alberta, Canada, where tar sands are currently being extracted. She doesn’t live there anymore.

Aerial view of tar sands extraction in Alberta (via The Nation)

Aerial view of tar sands extraction in Alberta (via The Nation)

“I don’t live in my community because I have children,” The Nation quotes, “and I can’t bear the fact that if I lived in my community, I would be putting their lives at risk.”

So now that you’ve had some time to consider your position, let’s check in. Here’s another question: If faced by a member of one of these at-risk communities, do you feel that you could in good conscious, defend the pipeline?

Ed Shultz, host of MSNBC’s The Ed Show, couldn’t. A longtime ardent supporter of Keystone, Shultz flew out to Nebraska to speak with people who will be most directly affected by the pipeline. Soon after his trip, he renounced his support for the project and urged President Obama to make the same pilgrimage.

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He says, ““You won’t have all the information, Mr. President, unless you do what I did. It’s an eye opener. It’s a risk. It’s unnecessary. We don’t have to do this.” (click to watch the clip)

We don’t have all the information and that’s because the members of these communities are not being adequately represented. Until they are given a sufficient say in this issue in which we are all stakeholders, can we allow them to bear the burden of the pipeline? Is it worth it? Think about it: what if it was you, your family and your community at risk.

So I’ll ask you one more time: if it was your town sitting on the path of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, would you still support it?