The irascible head of News Corp sent the above Tweet on Thursday, undercutting months of diligent work on behalf of his American cable news network to paint the Keystone XL pipeline as the safest, most awesome public works project ever.
Aside from providing pipeline opponents endless “even Rupert Murdoch thinks …” talking points, Murdoch has done a real service here by highlighting a sometimes underlooked problem with Keystone XL: pipeline integrity. Indeed, tar sands oil is uniquely heavy and dirty, and the government isn’t totally sure it can be safely transported. Which is not what one really wants in a pipeline that literally traverses the entire country.
When the State Department issued its first environmental review, it said “there could be from 1.18 to 1.83 spills greater than 2,100 gallons per year” for the entire project and helpfully added that “crude oil spills are not likely to have toxic effects on the general public.”
Yet, the existing portions of the Keystone pipeline saw fourteen spills in the first year of operation, and there have been more since then. Dr. John Stansbury of the University of Nebraska conducted the first independent analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline and found a likelihood at the high end of the State Department estimate—1.8 spills per year, or ninety-one over the next fifty years—but strongly contested the contention that it wouldn’t be harmful to the public.
If a spill happened where the pipeline crosses the Platte River, Stansbury noted, benzene—a human carcinogen—would travel unabated down the Missouri River for several hundred miles and affect the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in cities like Lincoln, Omaha and Nebraska City in Nebraska and St. Joseph and Kansas City in Missouri.