Locals talk pros and cons of Keystone XL pipeline

Locals talk pros and cons of Keystone XL pipeline

The dueling messages from Louisiana's U.S. Senate candidates on who's fighting the hardest and the fastest to get the Keystone XL Pipeline approved by Congress aside, some people in Louisiana have strong opinions about whether the pipeline would be good or bad for the state.

In reality, the pipeline already exists.

"This is the Keystone XL Pipeline which is an expansion of the capacity of the original Keystone Pipeline, and further more portions of it have already been built and are in construction,” said Eric Smith, of Tulane University's Energy Institute.

The pipeline would come down from Canada, cross a half dozen states and end in Texas.

"It doesn't cross Louisiana, but the pipeline, from where it terminates in the Houston area, supplies all of the refineries along the Gulf Coast with heavy sour crude," Smith said. "Our refineries are configured to only be able to process a relatively small amount of the light sweet crude that we produce in excess right now. We still need to import heavy sour crude.”

The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, known as LOGA, says the United States can't afford not to allow the pipeline expansion.

"The importance of the Keystone Pipeline isn't as much of an individual state that is the beneficiary,” said LOGA Vice President Gifford Briggs.

Briggs said it involves America's energy security. Because the pipeline would cross the U.S. border, the State Department had it under review for years.

"The president has the ability through the State Department to withhold approval of that,” said Smith.

Estimates of jobs tied to the construction of the pipeline are in the tens of thousands. But local environmentalists say at what cost?

“We have so many oil and gas pipelines throughout the Gulf Coast, and we do see ruptures, we see accidents, and we're already such a fragile coast, and we've been the energy sacrifice zone for the nation for so long," said Matt Rota, senior policy director for the Gulf Restoration Network. "There are potentials for spills, and also environmental damage for crossing wetlands and streams,”

"If we don't build the Keystone Pipeline to bring that Canadian oil down into the United States, then China has already openly stated that they will build a pipeline to bring those Canadian reserves down into China,” said Briggs.

Even though the expansion project would not have the pipeline crossing Louisiana, critics continue to say there still would be potential risks to local communities.

"It could have some increased refining," Rota said. "People that live in those communities, we're concerned about potential health and environmental impacts.”

Earlier this year the State Department issued its final environmental impact statement for the permit application, concluding that the project would have limited environmental impacts.

The proposed pipeline will be capable of moving up to 800,000 barrels of oil per day.

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