It seems like there hasn’t been very much to celebrate when it comes to the environment recently. But amidst some of the really bad news out there, we have some really great, wonderful, fantastic news for you Green Monsters!
Last night, the U.S. Senate killed the bill that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline! Why is this such a win? Well, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil, per day in a 1,702-mile pipe from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to a refinery in Houston, Texas – cutting directly through the center of the United States. The International Panel of Climate Change literally just issued a report stating that if we continue producing greenhouse gas emissions at a business as usual rate, the planet is set to warm above any rate that humans have ever experienced … in our entire history on Earth … The carbon emissions released from the pipeline would mean an additional 100-110 million metric tons of carbon dioxide could be pumped into the atmosphere every year.
If that statistic isn’t enough to illustrate why it is so amazing that the Senate blocked this bill … check out these 5 reasons why this is a massive win for not only the environment, but people and animals as well!
1. Endangered Species Protected From Oil Spills and Electric Wires
On its 875-mile route through the Mid-West, the Keystone Pipeline would traverse both the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers as well as around 50 other streams and waterways. The Missouri and Yellowstone rivers are home to the endangered Pallid Sturgeon as well as threatened birds including the Least Tern and Piping Plover. If an oil spill were to occur from the pipeline, it would utterly destroy the habitat and likely these animals as well. The migratory path of the Whooping Crane would follow the pipeline directly from Canada to Texas. The electric pumps needed to keep the oil flowing would create over 300 miles of new power lines that would impede the path of the formerly wide-open migration route. The Great Sage Grouse, Swift Fox, American Burying Beetle and countless other bird species would also be directly impacted.
2. Denying the Pipeline Keeps Carbon Emissions Equivalent to 5.6 million cars out of U.S. air!
The carbon emissions released from burning tar sands oil are markedly higher than conventional oil. The carbon emissions associated with this energy-intensive extraction process are three to four times higher than with regular oil extraction. According to Friends of the Earth, the sheer amount of emissions from this process would be equivalent to added 5.6 million new cars to U.S. roads. It’s no wonder NASA’s James Hansen stated, that the construction of this pipeline would be “game over for the planet.”
3. Millions of Barrels of Freshwater are Protected From Toxic Pollution
As with the process used in fracking, extracting oil from tar sands requires a MASSIVE amount of water. It is estimated that it takes three barrels of water to extract a single barrel of oil. The water used for this process comes from underground aquifers (non-renewable resource) and rivers. Considering that the pipeline would pump 830,000 barrels of oil every day, that would equal out to 2.5 million barrels of freshwater. This water is used as part of the process that separates out the oil from the sand, silt, and clay, meaning it becomes so polluted with chemicals and harmful substances like cyanide and ammonia that it has to be stored in huge, man-made waste lagoons. A stark 95 percent of this water ends up in toxic waste lagoons.
4. Canada’s Boreal Forest Gets to Stay Standing!
It no secret that the world’s old-growth forests are incredible weapons against climate change. Not only do these amazing forests act as carbon sinks, but they help to purify our polluted air and regulate the climate system. Incidentally, the tar sands that are to be explored for the pipeline are located underneath Canada’s Boreal forest. In order to carry out the project the forest would essentially need to be clear-cut. Not only would this release the stored carbon from the trees back into the atmosphere, it would destroy the habitat of thousands of animals.
5. Reduced Risk of Cancer
The link between cancer rates among communities who live near fracking sites have been drawn before. The impact on communities who live near tar sand extraction sites is unsurprisingly similar. The waste water lagoons that hold dangerously high levels of toxic materials are known to leak, spreading these harmful substances into nearby waterways – affecting plants and animals along the way. According to Friends of the Earth, 100 of the 1,200 residents of Fort Chipewyan, a lakeside village located near a tar sand operation, have died from cancer. This village’s cancer rates are 43 percent above the average and the types of cancer are known to be associated with certain carcinogens and substances (i.e. those found in waste lagoons). If the pipeline were approved this would mean communities along the 1,702 miles from Alberta to Texas who live up or downstream from these lagoons would be at risk.
Keep the Wins Coming
While this is an incredible win right now, the pipeline will likely be up for vote again in January. Given the newly Republican Senate, the likelihood that the pipeline will pass upon second vote is much higher. Now that you’ve seen what travesties we have avoided thanks to this initial denial of the bill, to see it pass in January would be devastating. This pipeline is about more than economics and politics, it is about billions of lives, both human and animal. PLEASE urge your state’s Senator to continue their opposition of the pipeline come the New Year! Click here for their contact information.
Image source: Flyboox