Wednesday, March 04, 2015


A Good Idea on the XL Pipeline

I always like it when people who are real experts opine on controversial topics-- so much of what we hear and read is politicized criticism from generalists. 

For example, I love Ralph Cooper's recent column in the Waco Trib on the Keystone  XL pipeline. Here is part of it:

For a good part of my adult life, I taught and consulted with industry on how to reduce the risks associated with hazardous materials and hazardous waste. One of my observations was that our petroleum and chemical industries tend to store and transport stuff when it is at its most hazardous. An example is methyl isocyanate, the deadly Bhopal, India chemical.

The Keystone XL pipeline proposes to transport material at its most hazardous, over longer distances, and with many secondary consequences such as waste residues to be disposed in our already overburdened Gulf Coast. The bitumen mined in Alberta must be thinned with hazardous solvents in order to move it by pipeline, increasing the risks associated with a spill as the material crosses aquifers, rivers and communities.

And once it gets to refineries in the Gulf Coast, the process will result in wastes that must be disposed near the refineries due to cost considerations. Then the products will be put into other pipelines and rail cars and transported, some of it back north, to the markets where it will be used.
It would make a great deal more sense to build the refinery at the mine site, then convert the material into product that can be moved more safely by pipeline or rail and with a shorter distance to market. Waste could be disposed of in the mined-out areas in Alberta.

This would be less risky and likely much less expensive. It might require additional pipeline capacity to transport the cleaned-up product to markets across Canada and the northern tier of the United States. That is the pipeline that should be built, if needed, instead of a pipeline for a toxic and hazardous mixture of solvents and bitumen.

Thanks for posting this!
Ralph - the first sane idea I have heard voiced on this topic. Thank you for writing this piece and Mark - thank you for sharing.
His opinions sound "sound." From what he tells us about himself, he is more expert than most of us are. And, I would like to believe that what he proposes is the way to go. Only troubled by circumstance that I, as is Christine, am hearing this "sane idea" now, after years of wrangling. {Probably my fault.)

On the other hand, mainstream media, which appears to me to oppose the pipeline for the most part, hasn't jumped on what the fellow has to to say. Why? Makes me wonder if this may not be a case of "too good to be true." Hope not. But, I'll remain an agnostic on the subject until I hear more, and learn more about this hazmat professional's personal and professional biases on the subject, if any.

Hey, anon, a bit of history. I have considered myself an environmentalist since about age 16. I have a solid undergraduate education in sciences, mostly chemistry. But I became interested in being effective in my environmentalism. So when I started a consulting business, I chose to help business and industry learn about the risks associated with the materials they used or produced, including the compliance burden those materials imposed upon them, as well as the risks to their employees and their neighbors.

And so, I applied my skills to helping businesses and industry to reduce their adverse impacts on the environment and human health, rather than standing outside and throwing rocks, so to speak. I developed and taught a course on how to comply with emergency response planning requirements, incorporating prevention of adverse events and reduction of the consequences of those events as a step to preventing the pollution that would result and further protecting the environment, the employees, and the neighbors.

Preserving an livable environment for my grandchildren and others of their and subsequent generations is dear to my heart. We need the employment and products produced by industry, but we need them to do it with the least adverse impact on human health and the environment.

Thx. Sensible response.
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