Nov 18 2014
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Her remarks follow:
“I want to congratulate Senator Boxer on her leadership on this issue. We clearly have had a very intensive debate in our caucus on this. There are varying views, and I have thought a lot about it.
I’ve had 120,000 California constituents write and call, of which about 93 percent are strongly opposed. And, I’d say to the chairman of the committee, one of the things that interested me from reading these constituent letters was really how informed individuals were about this pipeline.
Let me lay out some of the environmental concerns. You’ve heard this but perhaps you haven’t heard it in entirely this way.
The Keystone pipeline was proposed to accommodate increased extraction of oil from the tar sands of Alberta. Now these tar sands cover an area of 54,000 square miles—that’s roughly the size of New York. So it is huge.
I first came upon this by reading a March 2009 issue of National Geographic, and in that they showed part of the desecration to the land, forests down, tar sands, it looked like a moon-face.
A huge portion of these deposits can only be accessed through open-pit surface mining, which destroys the natural forests and bogs. Then the oil sands are mixed with heated water, chemicals are added, it is driven up with steam in order to separate it from the sand.
These methods are costly, they’re energy-intensive, they’re carbon-intensive and they leave behind a significant amount of toxic waste.
And that’s just extraction. Transportation of the oil poses additional risks to the environment, namely the risk of pipeline spills.
The first Keystone pipeline, which is already operating in our country, had to be shut down several times for safety concerns. It leaked 14 times during its first year of operation.
And across the border in Canada, the same pipeline spilled 21 times in its first year of operation.
And these pipeline spills are dangerous and difficult to clean up.
The danger from spills is even greater since the new leg of the pipeline would run over Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer—a critical source of drinking water for millions and an irrigation source for farmers.
Beyond degrading our environment, this project also runs against our efforts, as has been said many times on this floor, to combat climate change.
According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, by the time oil from Keystone makes it to a car in the form of gasoline, it has already produced 80 percent—80 percent—more greenhouse gas emissions than typical crude oil.
Here’s how the math works out.
Producing, refining and combusting oil from Keystone will release up to 27 million metric tons more carbon dioxide every year than would be produced from burning the same volume of crude oil.
Those additional emissions are equivalent to the emissions of 5.7 million cars on the road, or eight coal-fired power plants.
That’s, I think, pretty impressive, as to the totally negative impact of this.
So this would be a poor way to begin meeting the president’s pledge in Beijing to dramatically reduce our emissions, if the first time we do something creates 27 million metric tons more carbon dioxide every year, and is equivalent to the emissions of 5.7 million cars.
On the economics of the pipeline, there is simply not enough benefit to outweigh the environmental damage.
The project is not going to lower gasoline prices for American drivers. The oil is intended to be sold on the global market, not for the benefit of American motorists. The State Department has concluded the pipeline would have little impact on prices U.S. consumers pay.
So I believe this project has terrible environmental hazards and risks. It is not necessary and it certainly is not helpful to our environment.
I thank the chair. I yield the floor.”