League Comments on Keystone XL

The TransCanada Corporation is reapplying for a construction permit from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to oil refineries in Texas. Part of the pipeline would run through South Dakota. The state’s Public Utilities Commission granted a permit for the pipeline in 2010 but the permit must now be recertified. (The overall pipeline project also needs U.S. Department of State approval.)

The League submitted comments opposing the permit until certain conditions are met. Based on conservation policy adopted by League members in 2011, we recommended that the pipeline be required to include best-in-class safety requirements and fail-safe provisions, such as increased wall thickness of the pipe and redundant leak detection monitoring. To ensure adequate financial resources to address damages to public health and the environment if a spill does occur, clear penalties and fees should be established in the permitting process. Finally, all required reviews to protect public health and the environment need to be completed before a permit is recertified.

Tar sands are an extremely costly source of oil. A lot of energy is used to extract the oil, and more carbon is released into the atmosphere during that process than from extracting oil from other sources. Surface and groundwater, soils, fish and wildlife, and human health are at risk should there be a spill, leak, or other uncontrolled release anywhere along the more than 1,000 miles of pipeline.