Oil Starts Flowing Through Controversial Keystone Pipeline In Texas | KERA News

Oil Starts Flowing Through Controversial Keystone Pipeline In Texas

Jan 22, 2014

A Canadian company has started operating the Texas portion of its proposed Keystone XL cross-border pipeline that has stirred controversy and tension between the United States and Canada.

TransCanada said in a statement on its website Wednesday that it’s delivering oil through the Gulf Coast portion of the pipeline.

This pipeline is the southern leg of the proposed Keystone pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada's oil sands to Houston-area refineries. That cross-border section requires President Barack Obama's approval.

What opponents say:

Northeast Texas landowner Julia Trigg Crawford vows to walk around her farm daily to look for any leaks from the pipeline that runs under her property near Paris in Lamar County, about two hours northeast of Dallas. She has appealed her case against TransCanada to the Texas Supreme Court.

Crawford is worried about an “unusual flurry of activity” she noticed over the weekend.

“Track hoes, skids, water trucks, electrical trucks and construction crews showed up,” Crawford told StateImpact Texas. “They unearthed the pipeline, attached wires and sensors, wrapped it in something and then covered it up.”

Crawford spoke with KERA in 2012. Here's that story.

What TransCanada says:

Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement: “This is a very important milestone for TransCanada, our shippers and Gulf Coast refiners, who have been waiting for a pipeline to supply crude oil directly from Cushing, [Okla.]  This project is a critical, modern piece of American energy infrastructure that allows producers to safely connect growing production with the world’s most efficient refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast. It also provides those American refineries the opportunity to use more of the crude oil produced in both Canada and the United States for decades to come.”

StateImpact Texas reports:

Crawford has long battled the pipeline company over its use of eminent domain, where the company has claimed private property to route the pipeline through Texas. Since she and other opponents of the project have failed to stop it, they now plan to keep it under intense scrutiny. The southern leg of the Keystone XL may become the most watched pipeline in the country.

“We’ve got the Texas Pipeline Watch, a website, we’ve got a Facebook page. We are going to be out there with every means of technology and boots on the ground to watch this stuff,” Crawford says. “Because if you follow what happens a lot of times with unfortunate pipeline spills, it’s the landowners that find these things.”

Activists have already called attention to repair work. In November, the watchdog group Public Citizen released a report highlighting incidents of damage and repair work on the Keystone. The group is calling on the state Attorney General (and candidate for Governor) Greg Abbott to delay the pipeline while those issues are looked into.

At peak capacity, the pipeline will deliver 830,000 barrels of oil per day to Gulf Coast refineries. Supporters of the project argue that pipelines are the safest means of transporting oil, and say it will provide a boost to the economy. Opponents have fought it over concerns for the environment and land rights issues among other things.

From NPR in 2012: An East Texas landowner was so determined to block the Keystone XL pipeline from coming through his forest that he took to his trees and built an elaborate network of treehouses eight stories above the ground.

The Associated Press and StateImpact Texas contributed to this report.