NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - For at least four years East Texans have heard about the construction of a 487-mile crude oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas oil refineries. Its path leads right thru the middle of East Texas.
As of Wednesday morning, according to TransCanada, the pipeline is in operation. Supporters and opponents responded to the historic event. The debate isn't likely to end at all.
The announcement some have looked forward to and some have dreaded came today via international press call.
"It obviously gives me great pleasure to announce the gulf coast project has now started delivering crude to our customers in Nederland, Texas," said James Millar, a spokesman for TransCanada.
In their own press release, pipeline opponents questioned the truthfulness of TransCanada's announcement. It came from Kathy Dasilva of Nacogdoches.
"We have had watchers out this morning that have reported back from three of the pump stations in Texas and they say they are turned off," Dasilva said.
That indicates to NacSTOP member Maya Lemon and others in the group that TransCanada may be questioning itself on the safety of the pipes underground. The Nacogdoches County woman is involved out of concern for the Angelina River, the place where she first canoed with her family.
"This river is at risk really saddens me. If this pipeline spills in the Angelina River they would have to dredge the bottom of the river likely to clean it up," Lemon said. "And this ecosystem would be changed forever."
TransCanada told opponents today to start using the facts. Its claim remained the same.
"No other pipeline has been built to date that has all of these safety standards and operating conditions," Millar said. "They include things like higher number of remotely controlled shut off valves, increased pipeline inspections, higher construction standards, increased standards for pipeline integrity and maintenance and burying the pipeline deeper in the ground."
Safety issues are now in the forefront for both sides of the debate.
"As this pipeline goes on line the focus shifts a little bit because up to this point the conversation has been, focused around landowners, and their rights which is certainly of importance, but if an emergency event were to occur on the pipeline it would affect many more people than landowners, and so I think safety is our concern," Lemon said.
TransCanada brought the discussion back to why the pipeline was built in the first place.
"It's also very important as a milestone for all Americans who will benefit from enhanced energy security and enhanced reliability of that supply," Millar said.
There's still anticipation on a presidential review of the transport of Canadian tar sands, along with lingering questions about whether the product will be sold to international markets, rather than remain in the U.S.
Lemon will wait for the answers as her concern for the Angelina River grows knowing that the oil product is running or eventually will run across it.