Democrats argue new report on Keystone pipelines bolsters Biden cancellation
A group of House Democrats is arguing that a new report on spills from the Keystone Pipeline System boosts President Biden’s case for canceling the Keystone XL, which would’ve formed part of the network.
Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), and Donald Payne Jr. (N.J.) said in a joint statement that the new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report “validates President Biden’s decision to revoke the permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline.”
“In its thorough review of the pipeline’s history and construction, GAO found that preventable construction issues contributed to the current Keystone pipeline’s spills more frequently than the industry-wide trends,” said the Democratic lawmakers, who chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and subcommittees on energy and railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials, respectively.
“In fact, GAO found that, while corrosion was the industry’s leading cause of such accidents on crude oil pipelines, half of Keystone’s accidents were caused by material failure of the pipe or weld,” they added. “President Biden was clearly right to question this operator’s ability to construct a safe and resilient pipeline, and we support his decision to put Americans’ health and environment above industry interests.”
The report determined that since 2010, Keystone’s accident history is similar to that of other pipelines, but that its record has worsened in recent years. It particularly cited two more recent spills — one in 2017 and another in 2019 — that accounted for about 93 percent of the total barrels of oil released from the vessel network over the course of a decade.
How Keystone’s operator TC Energy fared compared to its peers varied based on the time period and metrics used in the report.
Using a government measure of the number of accidents impacting people and the environment per total miles of pipeline, the GAO said TC Energy was “consistently” better than the national average, though “less so” in recent years.
Over the five-year period of 2016 to 2020, TC was around average, ranking 43rd out of 80 operators when measuring from the fewest accidents to the most.
In terms of volume of oil spilled per barrel-mile of transport, TC was better than average over the past decade, worse than average of the past five years and better than average for the past three years.
The report said that Keystone’s accidents were more likely to be caused by construction issues, approximately half of those impacting people or the environment, compared to 12 percent industrywide.
In a letter accompanying the report, TC Executive Vice President Leslie Kass said that safety is a “core value” for the company. Kass also said that it had taken additional measures to improve safety, including a new tool that allows it to detect imperfections more easily.
The Keystone Pipeline System stretches across nearly 3,000 miles and delivers crude oil around North America.
The Keystone XL Pipeline, which became a flashpoint in the environmental debate surrounding pipelines, would’ve added an additional route from Canada to Nebraska.
Biden nixed a permit that would’ve allowed the new pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border, ultimately leading to its downfall.
The move was polarizing, leading to cheers from many environmentalists but significant pushback from Republicans.