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Voice of the people

Apr. 07, 2013 @ 10:00 PM

Tar sands oil refining has major consequences

As a scientist and teacher of human ecology, I am fully aware of the dangers surrounding the extraction of oil from tar sands. It's a dirty, costly and environmentally destructive process. Getting to the oil takes either strip-mining or melting it underground by steam heat for several months and pumping it up and out. This wastes huge amounts of natural gas and water.

TransCanada has been extracting tar sand oil from an area of the Boreal forest and wetlands about the size of Florida and ruining its once pristine environment. It now has over 65 square miles of tailings ponds due to tar sands oil production. We in eastern Kentucky know what tailings ponds can do to a local environment: kill fish and vegetation and leach into the groundwater, tainting private well water and nearby rivers for years.

The Keystone XL project proposes to transport the tar sand oil being produced at such great environmental cost from Canada, through five of our agricultural states (Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas) to the Gulf Coast for refinement. Tar sands oil refining causes much more atmospheric pollution than conventional crude; many of these refineries are located in areas that don't meet EPA air quality standards!

The potential for accidents and seepages from a pipeline that long is considerable. The Ogallala Aquifer would lie in its path. This is the primary source of drinking water for millions of Americans and provides 30 percent of our nation's irrigation groundwater. It is already at risk, so one accidental oil leakage could be catastrophic.

The Keystone XL pipeline proposal is currently under review by the State Department, and the deadline for public comment is April 22. If you have concerns about this project, please contact them at keystonecomments@state.gov and tell them.

John Shiber

Prestonsburg, Ky.

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