COLUMN-Keystone, Sissonville put spotlight on pipeline safety: Kemp

Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:44am EST
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By John Kemp

LONDON Jan 29 (Reuters) - TransCanada has promised to adhere to 57 special safety conditions, and in the event of an accidental oil spill from its Keystone XL pipeline would be responsible for all cleanup costs, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman promised this month when he approved the company's revised route through the state.

Responding to concerns about the possibility of catastrophic pollution, the pipeline has been re-routed to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills, though it still crosses parts of the High Plains (Ogallala) Aquifer.

TransCanada has agreed to more rigorous pipeline design, manufacturing, construction, operational and maintenance standards, according to Heineman, and will be required to provide evidence it has at least $200 million in third-party liability insurance to cover the cost of cleaning up any spill in the state.

The new route and safety commitments are unlikely to satisfy environmental groups campaigning against the pipeline, for whom it has become a powerful symbol of the wider struggle between fossil fuels and clean technology.

"The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a lynchpin enabling the climate intensive tar sands industry to grow unimpeded," according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "If Keystone is approved, we're locking in several more decades of fossil fuels and higher levels of carbon dioxide and global warming," NRDC warns.

Environmentalists continue to press President Barack Obama to refuse permission to construct the pipeline across the U.S.-Canadian border, in an attempt to deprive Canada's oil sands industry of a market and try to shut it down.

There is nothing more TransCanada can do to allay the concerns of its most trenchant critics. But the high-profile campaign against Keystone and recent pipeline incidents have put the safety record of America's pipeline operators under the spotlight.   Continued...