Green Cities

Not in My Backyard, KXL

February 24, President Obama exercised his executive rights by vetoing the Keystone XL Pipeline bill. Was President Obama’s veto the right decision? It seems so: The job creation claim is dubious, but its environmental impacts are not. Preventing the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline is not going stop climate change; in fact, if it were built, the carbon emissions from the oil it transports would account for less than one percent of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions. However, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline runs through Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, an important source of water for citizens and for the agriculture industry.  Thus, an oil spill would destroy ecosystems and pollute the water supply.  While new technologyis constantly being developed to minimize the frequency and the severity of spills, they are inevitable; the possibility of destroying these pristine environments—and the enormous costs of cleaning up the sticky, dirty tar—is simply not worth the risk. As such, proponents point to the numerous rail car incidents, arguing that vetoing the Keystone XL Pipeline bill will therefore encourage the use of more accident-prone trains.  While rail cars do experience more problems than pipelines, the International Energy Agency reports that pipeline accidents spill three times more oil than train accidents.  Thus, rails are currently still feasible and practical ways of transporting the Canadian oil. Furthermore, this proposed 1179-mile pipeline requires the government to forcibly take land from citizens, as it has in Texas through eminent domain laws; this southern portion of the pipeline has been in use since January 2014 after President Obama expedited that construction phase in 2012.  Consequently, the President’s recent veto of the northern section—citing environmental concerns—has fueled anger among Texas residents who, although pleased with the decision, believe that they are not being treated equally under the law, specifically the Clean Air and Water Acts.  The southern pipeline portion goes through an equally sensitive region: the Texas Ogallala Aquifer. While the President’s veto is a step in the right direction, this debate continues: Although the Senate failed to override his rejection on March 4, Senate Republicans expect to reintroduce this bill in the future, such as by attaching it to other legislation.  Thus, it’s important that we support President Obama’s decision by letting our Representatives know that the negative consequences outweigh any benefits that the Keystone XL Pipeline might provide. Steven Chao, Intern