Keystone XL Pipeline Officials Say Safety Is The Priority

(Billings, MT-YPR) The developers of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline say they already had included safety measures meant to prevent the type of pipeline break that spilled an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River last month.

TransCanada officials are in Montana this week. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would stretch from Alberta’s oil tar sand fields to refineries in the United States.

The approximately 1,660-mile long pipeline has been assailed by environmentalists as too risky. Opponents stepped up their criticism following the break in Exxon Mobil’s Silvertip Pipeline near Laurel, MT on July 1, 2011.

TransCanada President of Energy and Pipelines Alex Pourbaix says the Keystone XL project was designed to be the safest pipeline in North America.

“Everyone would acknowledge that Exxon’s incident with the Silvertip Pipeline was very unfortunate,” he says. “At the same time we find it concerning that many people have tried to compare the silvertip incident with the Keystone XL pipeline. And we really do believe that is completely inappropriate.”

Pourbaix says TransCanada will bury its pipeline a minimum 25 feet beneath major river crossings, exceeding current federal regulations. The proposed pipeline would cross three Montana rivers: Milk, Missouri, and Yellowstone.

Pourbaix says TransCanada made no changes to its projects proposal as a result of the Yellowstone River oil spill. Clean-up crews are still in Montana. Exxon Mobil officials are awaiting regulatory approval to rebuild its line.

The oil spill was the latest in a series of spills across the U-S. It brought Congressional scrutiny of the spider web of pipelines across the country, particularly those that cross rivers and streams.

Keystone Pipeline Project Vice President Robert Jones welcomes the increased attention. He’s not worried the spotlight will harm the Keystone XL project.

“And we try to do best practices,” Jones says.

TransCanada officials say their project exceeds current regulations, including:  the use heavy wall pipe with an abrasion resistant coating; check valves will be installed at river banks; lower pressure at river crossings; regular monitoring and maintenance, and aerial patrols every two weeks.

The U.S. State Department is charged with overseeing the permit because the pipeline crosses an international border.

A final Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released this month.