25 Jul 2011
69-Year-Old Family Farmer Battles Pipeline
“For all of us who care about American rivers and the life they sustain,” writes NRDC President Frances Beinecke, the disaster befalling the Yellowstone River, one of our most beloved and storied waterways, “is a timely warning against an even greater threat.”
Big Oil wants to build a pipeline to send the dirtiest crude oil on the planet from the Boreal forests of Canada right through the heart of America. On its way to Texas refineries, this pipeline would cross the Yellowstone, the Missouri, the Platte and other treasured rivers, skewering the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water to millions of heartland Americans and nearly a third of our nation’s irrigation supply.
Some heartlanders, like 69-year-old Sue Kelso in southern Oklahoma, are calling it all a Big Oil pipe dream. Taking on Goliath, she and her family are refusing the offer by Calgary-based TransCanada to pay for the right to run its proposed Keystone XL pipeline right under their peanut farm.
The risks to family farms like Sue’s just seem too great. Tar sands are more corrosive and more abrasive than normal crude oi and the existing Keystone pipeline, which runs from Canada to the United States, has failed 12 times in its first year of operation, leaking 21,000 gallons of crude in the worst such incident.
A year ago this month, another tar sands pipeline spilled 840,000 gallons of bitumen and natural gas liquids into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Cleanup costs have already topped $500 million, but the river–30 miles of which remains closed–may never be the same.
Because Keystone XL would cross the U.S. border, it requires a determination of “national interest” by our State Department, which is expected to rule on that question later this year. As Frances Beineck writes in her blog, the Keystone XL pipeline is not in our national interest and provides no public good: “[It] has no place in our energy future… Instead of perpetuating our fossil fuel dependence by driving a 1,400-mile spike through the American heartland, we must invest in the kinds of efficiency improvements, renewable energy sources and sustainable communities we know can cut our oil use by millions of barrels per day.”
We need to support farmers like Sue Kelso, and put our water resources first, above the private interests of the purveyors of expensive and dirty fossil fuels.That’s the way we’re going to strengthen our economy, shore up our national security, and create a brighter future for us all.