After successfully stalling the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport tar sands crude from Alberta to Gulf area refineries, environmental activists are targeting other proposed pipelines, although the result may be more crude-by-rail shipments.
"Using Keystone XL as a template, national environmental groups are joining with local activists in a strategy aimed at prolonging government reviews of proposed pipeline routes and their environmental impact," writes Amy Harder who reports on energy policy for The Wall Street Journal.
As a result, six oil and natural-gas pipeline projects in North America costing a proposed $15 billion or more and stretching more than 3,400 miles have been delayed, a tally by The Wall Street Journal shows.
One delayed pipeline is the $6 billion Northern Gateway that was rejected by the British Columbia government in May 2013. Delays result in mounting costs, similar to the "1,169-mile stretch of the Keystone XL still being reviewed by the Obama administration (that) will cost about $10 billion, or roughly twice the original estimate, according to TransCanada President and Chief Executive Russ Girling," writes Harder.
Harder points to the 59-41 vote on Nov. 18 in the U.S. Senate opposing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, long delayed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) but allowed at the behest of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) who was in the midst of a reelection runoff (that she would lose on Dec. 6). The defeat for the controversial pipeline was a huge victory for Keystone foes that may not last long with the new Republican majority Senate in the 114th Congress.
But is delaying construction of pipelines the best for the environment when it comes to transporting oil?
Delays are adding to the push to move oil by rail, said Robert Johnston, chief executive of Eurasia Group, an independent political-analysis firm. Oil-carrying trains are considered less safe than pipelines by many analysts and government officials.
While oil pipeline leaks have resulted in destructive oil spills including two reported here and here, there have been no fiery explosions and loss of human life as there have been with oil train derailments, the most serious being in July 2013 in Lac Mégantic, Quebec.
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