Pipeline Fuels Controversies Over Eminent Domain, Imminent Disaster

Plans for a pipeline to snake through area counties have some East Texans up in arms. Property owners are protesting TransCanada pipeline’s strong-arming exercise of eminent domain to take private property for public use, while others fear imminent disaster in the form of a pipeline leak or spill that could taint the pristine waters of the Big Cypress Creek Watershed, take out wildlife and the lush forestry, and threaten agriculture across the Piney Woods. Concerns of East Texans have been reflected by Americans all along the proposed TransCanada Keystone Pipeline route. This second leg of the 4,000-mile TransCanada Pipeline consists of approximately 1,702 miles of new 36-inch-diameter pipeline, with 327 miles in Canada and 2,375 miles within the United States, designed to deliver up to 1.5 million barrels per day of crude oil to U.S. refineries. Pipeline construction is designed to extend from Hardisty, a town in Alberta, Canada, to terminals in Texas, extending to the Gulf Coast area near Beaumont. The underground pipeline network is said to be five times the length of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The first leg of the pipeline began moving oil in June across Saskatchewan and Manitoba and through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. Since the pipeline crosses international borders, the State Department maintains the governmental authority over its approval and specifications, along with a host of other federal agencies including the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA). The pipeline must receive a Presidential permit, which Keystone officials say they expect “in the first half of 2011.” In the meantime NEPA has requested “more information and analyses on the potential impacts of the project in regard to greenhouse gas emissions, air quality degradation, and impacts to environmental justice communities, wetlands and migratory bird populations.” In a prepared statement provided to the Tribune, the EPA said the agency “is also requesting that the final EIS [environmental impact statement] include information concerning pipeline safety and spill response capabilities.” Pipeline officials say the oil will be heated and generally will be a temperature that ranges between 80-120 degrees (F). Pipeline pressure will range from 1440 psi (pound force per square inch) when the oil leaves a pump station to 50 psi when it arrives at the next pump station approximately 50 miles downstream. Pipeline spokesman James Prescott describes the oil that will pulse through the pipeline as “Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crude oil types, with the two primary types – bitumen and synthetic – which are blended or diluted with condensate or synthetic crude oils. … No more toxic than any other crude oil being pipelined across the country.” But environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club refer to the oil as “toxic tar sands, an environmental and health nightmare,” as “the most toxic form of oil on earth, laden with sulfur, arsenic and heavy metals, emitting three times as much greenhouse gas per barrel as conventional crude oil.” The Sierra Club and otheropponents call up for their case a tar sands pipeline rupture in Michigan this summer that spilled one million gallons of toxic crude into the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan watershed that could take years to resolve. In East Texas, the proposed pipeline route stretches across Franklin, Wood, Lamar, Delta, and Hopkins County, and does not include Red River or Camp Counties, according to Prescott. Wood County citizens are mobilizing in protest against property encroachment, while Franklin County property owners have remained silent, reportedly settling quietly for the cash pipeline officials are offering for Keystone to traverse their land. Members of the Franklin County Historic Association have expressed opposition to the pipeline crossing land they have designated as a nature preserve, and are calling for a thicker pipeline skin at the watershed crossing of 1.5 inches thick over the proposed .5 inch thickness. The Franklin County Water District (FCWD) has taken over negotiations with Keystone officials on this land which the district leased to the historic association. FCWD President David Weidman said the district stands in agreement with the historical association that “the portion of the property taken for the right of way should be minimized, and that the pipeline should be constructed in a manner so as to permit the continued use of the property as a nature preserve to the fullest extent.” TransCanada officials purport the economic boost the pipeline could funnel into the country which would spill over into East Texas communities, and the significance the pipeline could have in weaning America off “unstable foreign oil supplies.” Prescott says the pipeline could pump “$5.2 billion in property taxes across the pipeline route during the estimated operating life of the pipeline, with projections of 15,000 high-wage manufacturing jobs and construction jobs in 2011-2012 across the country, stimulating economic activity and creating more than 100,000 additional person years of employment during construction and development.” A Perryman Group study, funded by TransCanada, reports that local areas along the route could expect to receive an estimated $1 billion in tax payments over the useful operating life of the project. The study concluded that during construction, the project could generate $2.3 billion in new spending for the Texas economy with increased personal income, collectively, of $1.6 billion, additional state and local tax revenues of more than $48.8 million, and $2 billion in increased gross state project. But the immeasurable cost of a pipeline spill or leak continues to shade the project’s public reception across the country. “In East Texas, the pipeline route travels through the Big Cypress Watershed. There are seven other pipelines currently in operation in the Watershed, an area equivalent of 15,698 acres,” Prescott rather matter-of-factly told the Tribune. He said the TransCanada pipeline route runs 3,129 feet from Lake Cypress Springs and 30,152 feet from Lake Bob Sandlin. Contamination to either of those water supplies affects water supplies in a broad area, including Mount Pleasant, according to Walt Sears, manager ofthe Northeast Texas Municipal Water District (NETMWD). “It’s not a matter of if, but when and how bad will be the pipeline leak,” he told the Tribune. Sears said, “The only direct participation we would have in regard to this pipeline is after the facet, if a seal or rupture creates damages.” Sears recalled the Explorer pipeline gasoline spill that contaminated Lake Tawakoni in March of 2000. A four-inch gash opened in the pipe which was pumping at approximately 600 psi, according to Sabine River Authority officials. The spill disrupted water supply for a time, but contaminated the soil such that clean up took four years, according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials.. Prescott insists that pipelines are the safest method for the transportation of petroleum products. “The vast majority of pipeline leaks are small, with most involving less than three barrels, 80 percent of spills involve less than 50 barrels; and less than .05 percent of spills total more than 10,000 barrels,” he said. He said that TransCanada monitors and controls its pipeline systems from a computerized control center that is staffed 24 hours a day. He said in the event of a spill, “emergency response personnel would contain and cleanup a spill and that Keystone is required to work cooperatively with state and federal agencies to clean up and remediate spills to levels that ensure public health and protection of the environment.” Sears said, “The watershed starts at Lake Cypress Springs and goes all the way to Caddo Lake. The lakes in the Big Cypress include Lake Bob Sandlin, Lake of the Pines, Lake Welch, Lake Monticello, Lake Cypress Springs, Johnson Creek Reservoir and Caddo Lake n encompassing, in round numbers, approximately 2,800 square miles of water, and going east to west, stretches from Winnsboro and Mount Vernon to the furthest east city of Marshal. In terms of size, the biggest communities that rely on this supply are the cities of Longview, Marshall and Mount Pleasant.” “It may be that the eighth one [pipeline] is operated in the same way that the first seven are, and you’re not significantly changing the risk, but that’s a question, the answer of which is yet to know.” According to Mount Pleasant City Manager Mike Ahrens, “we would be in a tough spot if our water source was contaminated. We have no plan in place for that – that I know of.” Awaiting a State Department green light, “We are currently in the permitting phase of the Keystone XL project,” Prescott said. “Current activities include: easement acquisition; engineering and survey work; construction planning, contracting and logistics; local permit acquisition; and stakeholder relations.” Prescott said the landowner consultation process began more than two years ago and included a series of open house meetings along the proposed route in Texas in June 2008 to introduce the company and project to landowners and stakeholders. In Texas, he said, pipeline officials held open house meetings in Paris, Winnsboro, Tyler, Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Liberty, Livingston and Beaumont. He said the process of routing and acquisition begins with the contracted land firm researching the ownership andinterests in the land pipeline officials propose to cross. The land agents then arrange for Keystone’s survey crews to perform preliminary surveys in relation to environmental, regulatory and civil engineering data and information gathering. “Once the route is determined and all relevant information is available for land acquisition (title work, drawings, legal documentation), Keystone’s agents begin the consultation process to determine if there are any legitimate routing issues, easement agreement issues or compensation issues n all important aspects of the process of negotiating for easement rights necessary for the project,” he said. Meanwhile landowners in East Texas and all along the proposed pipeline route continue to see pipeline crews stepping onto their property, surveying, and digging. Property owners continue to receive letters from the law firm representing Keystone that read: “Keystone has determined that, to serve the public purpose of a common carrier pipeline, it must exercise its power of eminent domain to try to obtain any easement rights that cannot be acquired through negotiations with landowners, and has retained this law firm to assist in these efforts. Keystone has also determined that the best selected route of the pipeline crosses the above referenced tract in which you appear to have some ownership interest. In advance of making a final offer to acquire these easement rights, we send the enclosed copy of the Landowner’s Bill of Rights Statement issued by the Texas Attorney General. We will soon send Keystone’s final offer to acquire an easement across the above-referenced tract…” The final-offer letters include a monetary amount offered for “permanent easement, temporary workspace, additional temporary workspace and all damages to the property,” with a date upon which the offer must be accepted, or Keystone will consider the offer rejected “and will commence appropriate proceedings at that time to acquire the easement interest….” The letters close with the qualifier that “A condemnation action can be avoided if we can reach an agreement on this matter….” ” I believe the most recent rupture of these large oil pipelines covered 30 miles. There is no method to clean up 30 miles of spilled oil in our watershed irregardless. This must not proceed. The pressure stated of 1440 PSI which equates to almost a million barrels per day of oil running through the line. There is no control room capable of monitoring and stopping a drop in pressure due to a leak that would avoid a large spill. Stop this pipeline and stop the acquisition of land by a foreign corporation viia eminent domain. ” ((06 NOV 2010))





















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