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Monday, Dec 17, 2012, 2:06 pm

TransCanada Cuts Corners in Protecting U.S. Water Supply from Possible Keystone XL Spills

By Anthony Mangini

A Kansas farmer protests the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House on November 6, 2011. (Photo courtesy of tarsandaction/ Flickr / Creative Commons)

Inside Climate News reports that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will not include several key safety features that could help protect the critical Ogallala/High Plains aquifer from potential spills, including external sensor cables that would detect smaller leaks. As Lisa Song reports:

The leak detection technology that will be used on the Keystone XL, for instance, is standard for the nation's crude oil pipelines and rarely detects leaks smaller than 1 percent of the pipeline's flow. The Keystone will have a capacity of 29 million gallons per day—so a spill would have to reach 294,000 gallons per day to trigger its leak detection technology. …

Experts interviewed by InsideClimate News estimate it would cost less than $10 million—roughly 0.2 percent of the Keystone's $5.3 billion budget—to add external sensor cables, a concrete cap and extra patrols to the 20 miles of the pipeline in Nebraska where a spill would be most disastrous. The water table in that area lies less than 20 feet below the surface and provides ranchers with a steady supply of fresh water. …

Most environmental groups want the pipeline stopped altogether, primarily because the Canadian crude oil it will carry has a much larger carbon footprint than conventional oil. NASA climate scientist James Hansen has famously called the pipeline a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet."

Anthony Mangini is an editorial intern at In These Times. He holds a master's degree from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor's degree from New York University. He currently resides in Chicago.

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