East Texas environmentalists respond to State Department's TransCanada green light


NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada has cleared a significant hurdle. It comes just one week after the company announced it opened its southern lines which run through East Texas.

On Friday, the State Department raised no major environmental objections to the construction of Keystone's northern line. It's close to the source of Canadian tar sands.

East Texas News sought reaction from residents.

"We have so manypipelines underground now and we have had that much problems with," Bill Fisher said.

"I think it is a good idea," Bob Kunstmann said. "If wedon't do it they are going to sell it to the Chineese."

"I'm terribly disappointed and extremely concerned for communities like ours that are along the route of the pipeline," said Vicki Baggett, a member of NacSTOP.

Today's news that federal leaders raise no environmental objections to its construction is mind boggling to Baggett, who is an environmentalist.

"We are at risk," Baggett said.

The NacSTOP member questioned the environmental study. She referred to the Inspector General's investigation into whether or not Keystone has ties with those who conducted the environmental impact statement.

"I do find it outrageous and disappointing that our government is making these sorts of decisions with that kind of flawed information," Baggett said. "That they are putting the well being of the corporation over the health and safety of the citizens."

Transcanada is standing by their claims of safety.

"I thinkthat one thing we all want to do is to make sure our energy infrastructure tobe built safely and operate safely and I think that is what we are trying todo," Transcanada spokesman Shawn Howard said. "The pipeline is being built to standards that no other pipeline is beingbuilt to."

The State Department's report issued just today says Canadian tar sands are likely to be developed regardless of U.S. action on the pipeline. TransCananda company spokespeople are holding to their stance on the issue.

"We made a commitment to minimize the impact of the pipeline on the environment and the communities it traverses and we are following through on that commitment," said James Millar, a spokesman for TransCanada. "I'm proud of the steps that our employees and our contracts have taken to make this the safest pipeline that has been built in America today."

NacSTOP member Maya Lemon is in Houston today visiting with oil refineries that she says are preparing to accept tar sands. She calls it a mistake for all Americans.

"Looking at the construction of the Keystone XL South in Texas, I think it's impossible to suggest that there will not be environmental impacts associated with further construction," Lemon said.

The environmental review stops short of recommending approval of the project. Politically, it gives the Obama Administration a green light toward approval.

Lemon said this puts a huge responsibility on Democrats and environmentalists to remain strong in their opposition.

"I think it is important for those of us who live in East Texas to show solidarity with people along the northern segment of the pipeline because of the way they tend to be at risk," Lemon said.

"And I intend to continue working and doing my part to make sure that happens," Baggett said.

Both environmentalists and Keystone XL conducted live international media press calls to issue their statements. Both camps will continue to wait. A decision is not expected before the summer.

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