Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline Is Risk Depleted Aquifer Can’t Afford
Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.—“The U.S. State Department is due to wrap up its current review of the Keystone XL pipeline that would span almost 1700 miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and transport oil mined from tar sands, once regarded even by the oil industry as an energy source too dirty to effectively refine. Approval of this pipeline would facilitate further development of the tar sands in Canada, which is having serious social and environmental consequences there.
“The proposed pipeline would run through the depleted Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water to 82 percent of the people who live within its boundaries. About 20 percent of the nation’s irrigated agricultural land overlies the aquifer, and about 30 percent of the ground water used for irrigation in the U.S. is withdrawn from it. But in the last 50 years, water levels in the aquifer have dropped significantly, losing 65 trillion gallons of water in storage — enough to supply all the homes and businesses in Washington D.C. with drinking water for more than 1,000 years.
“If Secretary of State Hilary Clinton approves this project, the dwindling freshwater resources in the aquifer could be irreparably harmed.
“With over 2,500 pipeline accidents between 2,000 and 2009 alone in the U.S., the oil industry poses significant threats to critical water resources. We have seen nothing that shows that the Federal government has the capacity to mitigate damage should the pipeline leak into this already depleted aquifer.
“Combined with the devastating aftermath of last year’s Horizon spill, and the ticking time bomb that is BP’s Atlantis platform, it is not a question of whether the Keystone XL pipeline will leak, but when. Much like hydraulic fracturing, the process for extracting and processing tar sands is extremely dangerous, polluting, and water intensive. For every barrel of oil extracted, three to five barrels of water are forever contaminated. Processing tar sands generates two to four times as much greenhouse gas as producing one barrel of conventional oil. This is not an effective or responsible use of dwindling water resources.
“Furthermore, the federal budget for municipal water system upkeep is in jeopardy and will impact our ability to mitigate the impact of a pipeline leak on our drinking water.
“The Executive Order establishing the process to permit the pipeline appears to be a Bush-era giveaway to the oil industry. It relinquishes control of the local watershed to the Federal government, which would leave its fate in the hands of a foreign company if this pipeline were approved.”
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.