Advocates offer views in support of Keystone XL pipeline -
Published Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:45 am
Advocates offer views in support of Keystone XL pipeline

YORK, Neb. — The nation's former top federal pipeline regulator commended those fighting to stop the Keystone XL oil pipeline Tuesday, saying they have helped make the project safer than when it was first proposed.

But Brigham McCown, who once headed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said further delays in federal approval for the project could raise the likelihood of crude oil spills. That's because transporting oil by rail, truck or barge carries a greater risk of accidents, he said.

“We can't eliminate our oil dependency overnight,” said McCown, who now works as an industry consultant in Dallas. “If it's going to be used, how do we move it from point A to B as safely as possible?”

McCown appeared at a pipeline briefing in York sponsored by Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence, a strong supporter of the Keystone XL.

After McCown and two other advocates made the case for pipeline safety, Keystone XL opponent Susan Dunavan said she remains unconvinced. The proposed pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil daily past Dunavan's rural McCool Junction home on the way to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“A pipeline carries so much more oil than a train,” said Dunavan, one of three landowners suing the state over the project. “I don't see how you can compare the two.”

Barry Rubin, director of Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence, said the purpose of Tuesday's briefing was to counter what he called “misinformation” about the safety and reliability of oil pipelines. “They should be entitled to their own opinions about the project,” he said, “but they shouldn't be entitled to their own facts.”

Pipelines deliver between 11 billion and 13 billion barrels of liquid fuels each day in the United States, and 99.9 percent of it arrives safely, said Andrew Black, president and CEO of the Association of Oil Pipelines.

TransCanada Corp., the company that wants to build Keystone XL, plans to use the latest, corrosion-resistant pipe for the 1,700-mile, underground pipeline. Construction welds would be inspected by third-­party inspectors, which, in turn, would be audited by federal regulators.

The finished 36-inch diameter pipeline would be tested by running pressurized water through its entire length. The test would reveal any manufacturing or construction defects, Black said.

Keystone XL would be operated by trained staff members at a control station, where they would watch for drops in pressure or volume, which could indicate a leak. “In the event of a release, they are authorized by management and told by management to shut down the pumps,” Black said.

Over the past decade, the pipeline industry has reduced such releases by 62 percent, Black said.

J. Berton Fisher, a hydro­geologist from Tulsa, Okla., said the saying that “oil and water don't mix” would apply to a leak of the oil sands crude if it were spilled in an underground aquifer. The oil, which he said is less dense than water, would float.

Fisher, who testifies as a legal expert on environmental matters, also addressed the chemicals that would be added to allow the thick Canadian crude to flow through the pipeline. He said those compounds, which include some known to cause cancer, would not move very far in an aquifer.

He was questioned about the 2010 Enbridge pipeline rupture in Michigan, which released an estimated 1 million gallons of Canadian oil into the Kalamazoo River. In that spill, some of the oil sank to the river bottom, making cleanup more difficult and costly.

Fisher said that when the heavy crude is exposed to air, its density can increase, causing it to sink. So the oil would behave differently in surface water than it would in an underground water supply, he said.

Contact the writer: Joe Duggan    |  

Joe works in the Lincoln bureau, where he helps cover state government, the Legislature, state Supreme Court and southeast Nebraska.

Easter Sunday temperatures climb into 80s in Omaha area
Omaha police investigate two nonfatal shootings
City Council to vote on adding Bluffs pedestrian safety lights
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Midlands runners ready for Boston Marathon
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
Grace: Pipe organ concert a tribute to couple's enduring love
Omaha-area jails and ERs new front line in battling mental illness
Civil rights hearing to consider voting policies in Midwest
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
< >
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »