Oil and gas spewing from that broken wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico has spread at least as far as the Florida coast, and could go further. Controversy and questions about the relative safety of different kinds of fuel pipelines may have spread over an even wider area — taking in Washington DC, Alberta, Canada, and a big slice of the U.S. heartland.
Have the ripples from that BP spill reached the U.S. State Department? At least one environmental group thinks that could be the case. The State Department, which approves energy pipelines that cross international borders into U.S. territory, is considering the environmental impact of a massive pipeline that would have stretched from Canada’s oil sands fields all the way to Texas. But on Wednesday, the department extended the public comment period for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project a few weeks, from June 15 to July 2, with additional public meetings on the project on June 18 in Houston and on June 29 in Washington DC.
Fuel made from oil sands, also known as tar sands, appeals to those who favor fuel made by U.S. allies — like Canada — instead of countries that use oil revenues to oppose the United States and U.S. citizens abroad. And given the mess in the Gulf of Mexico, supporters of Canadian oil sands say that getting oil on land is less of a risk than deepwater drilling. But environmental groups argue this method is destructive to terrain and requires lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions to produce.
Now, in light of the devastation caused by the BP spill, conservationists argue that the Keystone XL pipeline could cause on land what the BP blowout has done underwater. The National Wildlife Federation maintains that the pipeline’s nearly 2,000-mile path takes it under some of the most productive U.S. farmland and a huge underground fresh water reservoir called the Oglala Aquifer.
Ben Gotschall, a fourth-generation cattle rancher in Nebraska, is worried about a possible pipeline leak.