Letter on Keystone XL – an Engineer’s Perspective

March 6, 2014

Dear President Obama and the State Department,
President Obama Speaks At Southern Site Of The Keystone Oil Pipeline

As a Registered Civil Engineer, I oppose the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline because I know it will leak and there will be oil spills. Nothing is ever engineered to 100% because it’s just not affordable. Additionally, factors such as human error (in design, construction or operation), material flaws/failure, and unpredictable accidents make the probability of pipeline spills high.

Case in point: Enbridge, a Canadian company, had a pipeline rupture in 2010 which poured a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. It was eighteen hours before it was even discovered! It was the largest and one of the costliest on-land oil spills in U.S. history. The six-foot gash in the pipe was caused by corrosion fatigue.

Case in point: In April 2013, a twenty-two foot crack in an Exxon pipeline caused a devastating tar sands oil spill that began in a residential neighborhood of Mayflower, Arkansas and then flowed into Lake Conway, a drinking water source and popular fishing spot. The EPA classifying it as a major spill, with over 5,000 barrels of crude spilled.

Case in point: TransCanada’s first pipeline had more than a dozen spills in less than a year of operation. The more acidic and corrosive tar sands oil and the risk of external corrosion from higher pipeline temperatures make spills more likely.

Tar sands crude is one of the world’s dirtiest fuels. A pipeline accident could devastate ecosystems, pollute water sources and jeopardize public health. The Keystone XL pipeline would span more than 1,700 miles through farmland and fragile ecosystems, from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas, where it will be refined and exported. The Keystone XL pipeline would cross six states, major rivers, and key sources of drinking and agricultural water, such as the Ogallala Aquifer which supplies water to more than one fourth of America’s irrigated land and provides drinking water for two million Americans.

During tar sands oil production, the carbon dioxide emission levels are three to four times higher than that of conventional oil. The pipeline would be responsible for 30 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. The energy-intensive extraction and refining processes also result in higher emissions of toxic sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide which cause smog and acid rain.

In considering the Keystone XL pipeline proposal in 2013, the EPA recommended to the State Department that pipelines that carry bituminous sands oil should no longer be treated just like pipelines that carry any other oil.

Additionally, the pipeline will create higher carbon emissions, contribute dramatically to climate change, and threaten our country’s drinking water. This pipeline is not in our national interest.

As a Registered Civil Engineer, I am aware of previous pipeline ruptures and spills. I’m concerned about the integrity of the pipeline from corrosion, faulty welds, material defects, construction equipment and sabotage. I believe the Keystone XL pipeline should NOT be approved. Thank you.

Sincerely,

 Jösan Feathers, P.E.

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About the Author:  Jösan Feathers worked as a Civil Engineer for Caltrans and State Parks for 30 years before retiring almost 5 years ago. She and her husband enjoy attending SDSU Aztecs basketball games, traveling and dog-sharing their neighbor’s dog, Rupert, in La Mesa. She volunteers with SanDiego350.org.

Creative Commons License This text by Jösan Feathers is used here by permission of the author, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About angela

Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Angela has lived in San Diego since 1999 and works in Geographical Information Systems in the water industry. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening with native plants and Irish ceili dancing. She has been involved with SanDiego350 since it formed in late 2011.

Comments

  1. There is nothing about this pipeline that is advantageous to the US and many things that are disadvantageous for everyone in its path and the clumate in general. This is a pact with the devil.

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