Toxic Pipeline?

Many Houstonians who have never heard of the Alberta Tar Sands soon will. Environmentalists are worried about a proposal to expand imports of Canada's controversial oil for refining in the Houston area. Pat Hernandez has more.

Canada's Tar Sands contains the largest oil extraction project in the world. It covers an area the size of Florida and is being mined for the sand oil mixture. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, to be built by TransCanada, would bring the oil to Houston and Port Arthur, where 90-percent of it will be refined.

Sierra Club sign to City of Houston The Sierra Club's position

Angela Boag is with  the Sierra Club. She says research shows it is also one of the largest, dirtiest and most destructive projects on Earth.

"Tar sands oil contains eleven times more sulphur and nickel, six times more nitrogen, and five times more lead than conventional crude oil. The pipeline will bring 700,000 barrels per day, of the world's lowest grade crude oil to the Gulf Coast to be refined."

She says exposure to these toxins has been linked to asthma, emphysema and other lung diseases.

Terry Cuhna is with TransCanada, the company that would be moving the crude down through a network of refineries and pipelines. He says he's aware of the controversy surrounding the product, but he sees it as a very important part of securing energy across North America.

"It would create over thirteen thousand construction jobs across the United States. It would result in roughly twenty-billion dollars of economic benefit to the U.S. economy."

Houston City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones says she didn't know much about the product until she did a little research that tar sands oil was environmentally more destructive than regular crude oil.

"The greenhouse gas emissions would be approximately 82 percent greater than the average refined crude oil. It also concerns me that there's increased damage to air and water. It concerns me that it might require additional emergency response planning if there were a spill from the pipelines." 

Jones wants TransCanada to appear before council to try and dispel any concerns she has about project. Pending approval by the state department, the Canadian crude could begin processing at three refineries near the ship channel by the middle of next year.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...