Conservation group: Keystone XL pipeline a threat to Montana’s water – Public News Service, March 31, 2017

By Eric Tegethoff

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – A conservation group in Montana on Thursday filed a lawsuit challenging the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would travel through the state and across two of its major rivers.

The Trump administration approved the pipeline last week based on a 2014 Environmental Impact Statement, which conservation groups around the country say is outdated, failing to take into account recent oil spills, including two on the Yellowstone River, and the effects of climate change.

The pipeline would run under the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. Kate French, who chairs the Northern Plains Resource Council, lead plaintiff in the suit, said that poses a significant threat to Montana’s water.

“We depend on our rivers, on our groundwater for drinking, for irrigation and for our biggest economies like agriculture, recreation and tourism,” she said. “A threat to our water is really a threat to our most basic needs.”

The Trump administration has said the pipeline will create jobs and help the country be less reliant on foreign oil. The pipeline from the company TransCanada would transport more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. It also would cross the Midwest’s Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the United States.

French said she disagrees with the president’s assertion that the Keystone pipeline will help the country become energy independent.

“We have domestic clean-energy alternatives available for us today,” she said. “We don’t need this foreign-owned pipeline that would commit us to a dirty-energy future that disrupts our climate and hurts public health.”

French said the pipeline’s builder, TransCanada, has estimated Keystone XL will have 11 significant spills over its lifetime, yet the company does not have an emergency response plan in place.

Dena Hoff, a farmer in Glendive who would be 13 miles down the Yellowstone River from the proposed pipeline, said that in July 2015, a 12-inch pipeline broke and sent 30,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone. She said she doesn’t want to see that happen again.

“The pipeline that Keystone is planning to put under the Yellowstone is three times the size,” said Hoff, a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council. “It’s a 36-inch pipeline, and I have seen what a 12-inch pipeline break does and I really don’t ever want to see the break from a 36-inch pipeline.”