Dakota Groups Challenge State Department
Environmental Impact Statement on Controversial Tar Sands Pipeline
Washington, D.C. – Dakota Rural Action and Dakota Resource Council, represented by Iowa public interest law center Plains Justice, joined forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council in a lawsuit filed yesterday against the US State Department for failing to consider the full health and environmental impacts of the Keystone tar sands pipeline before issuing a Presidential Permit. The lawsuit claims that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed to investigate the full extent of risks and impacts to rural communities or ways to protect people, land, and waters in case of a pipeline breach.
Pipeline developer TransCanada, a foreign corporation, intends to pump almost 2.5 million gallons daily of heavy sour crude oil across the Dakotas at a pressure of 1,440 pounds per square inch. According to TransCanada, a leak of up to 1.5% of the capacity of the pipeline might take up to 90 days to detect. This means that the pipeline could leak the equivalent of thirty-five 9,000 gallon tanker trucks each day without automatic systems detecting the spill.
"Make no mistake, the Keystone Pipeline is a major industrial facility. A leak could cause serious harm," said Frank James of Dakota Rural Action. "This lawsuit is about getting the State Department to do it right. We are taking this action on for rural citizens and rural landowners. We feel that the full environmental impacts need to be considered."
Landowners in both North and South Dakota continue to fight pipeline siting and eminent domain proceedings but find themselves outgunned by TransCanada's resources.
The Keystone Pipeline would transport controversial tar sands crude oil from Canada to the US. The US Conference of Mayors recently recognized that production of tar sands crude oil releases up to three times the amount of greenhouse gases as conventional oil production and will significantly damage Canada's boreal forest ecosystem – the world's largest carbon storehouse. Extracting and processing tar sands oil also requires vast amounts of natural gas and water.
"To extract this low quality oil from tar sands, oil companies are burning through reserves of natural gas our children will need one day. Dredging up dirtier and dirtier oil to fuel inefficient vehicles is like washing the dishes with scotch, and the damage to our rural way of life keeps mounting," said Attorney Carrie La Seur of Plains Justice, who represents Dakota Rural Action and Dakota Resource Council.
Ironically, the Bush administration recently required programmatic Environmental Impact Statements to assess the impacts of solar, wind and geothermal energy development in the US. In contrast, the study done by the State Department for the Keystone Pipeline failed to consider the broader impacts to America's health and environment of increasing dependence on the tar sands oil, another "unconventional" energy resource.
The groups filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint is available upon request.