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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keystone XL Threatens Air Quality for Surrounding Communities

We have all read about Keystone XL pipeline’s adverse effects can have an impact on the environment as a whole, but I want to take a closer look at how it affects the air quality in the surrounding areas. According to National Nurses United, more than 40 percent of Americans live in areas affected by air pollution with levels of particle pollution that can cause higher incidents of asthma, heart attacks, and premature death. This statistic could worsen for people living in areas near the Keystone XL. The Keystone XL will multiply carbon emissions are a major factor in intensifying climate change; that higher air temperatures can increase bacteria-related food poisoning, such as salmonella. The ground level ozone contaminants can damage lung tissue, reduce lung function, and increase respiratory ailments.

Based on a report done by Jeffrey Simpson from The Globe and Mail, bitumen oil produces 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions per barrel than crude oil refined in the U.S. He went on to say that, bitumen oil shipped via Keystone would produce somewhere between 1.3 and 27.4 million metric tons more carbon a year than heavy oil now being used in the Gulf refineries – the equivalent of emissions from 270,833 to 5,708,333 passenger vehicles, or from 0.4 to 7.8 coal-fired power plants. Based on an operation run by the Koch brothers, they have created petcoke, which has proven to be significantly harmful to the environment. Forest ethics estimates that if production triples as the industry wants, it would mean a 230 percent increase in nitrogen oxides pollution, a 160 percent increase in sulphur dioxide emissions, and a 190 percent increase in particulate matter – each of these can damage both human and environmental health.

The harmful effects of the Keystone XL if the project continues to 2030.

The harmful effects of the Keystone XL if the project continues to 2030.

So what is petcoke? Petcoke is a refining byproduct of tar sands oil, and when burned is substantially dirtier than coal and contributes drastically to greenhouse gas pollution. Numerous parties invested in this pipeline fail to mention these facts because it would effect the profit they would make off of the Keystone XL. The price of increasing climate change and health risks is a far higher risks for the residents who will be affected by this pipeline.

Toxic black dust covers a working class community in south Chicago when strong winds pick up Koch Industries owned petcoke piled high along the Calumet River.

Toxic black dust covers a working class community in south Chicago when strong winds pick up Koch Industries owned petcoke piled high along the Calumet River.

Everyone deserves to have access to clean air, so we shouldn’t let the Keystone XL take that away from them.