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Canadian company starts Keystone pipeline in Texas

By Ramit Plushnick-masti

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

In this photo taken on March 11, 2013, a sign reading "Stop the Transcanada Pipeline" stands in a field near Bradshaw, Neb. A Canadian company on Wednesday started delivering oil through the Texas portion of a proposed cross-border pipeline that has stirred controversy and tension between the United States and its northern neighbor.

Nati Harnik, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

HOUSTON — A Canadian company on Wednesday started delivering oil through the Texas portion of a proposed cross-border pipeline that has stirred controversy and tension between the United States and its northern neighbor.

TransCanada said in a statement on its website that it is delivering oil through the Gulf Coast portion of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, from a hub in Cushing, Okla., to Houston-area refineries.

The longer, $7 billion Keystone XL, which would transport heavy tar sands crude from Canada and oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale, requires a permit from President Barack Obama because it crosses an international border. That segment has not yet been approved. Obama fast-tracked the shorter, southern portion of the pipeline with the hope of relieving a bottleneck in Oklahoma.

The pipeline has been mired in controversy. Opponents and landowners argue that tar sands oil is heavier and dirtier than other forms of crude, meaning that any spill would be harder to clean up and that the refining process will be dirtier.

Texas landowner Julia Trigg Crawford has been fighting the construction of the pipeline across her family's farm. She argues that Calgary-based TransCanada did not have the right to take her land through eminent domain, and her case is currently in the Texas Supreme Court.

Furious that the pipeline now snakes under her land, Crawford vowed in a conference call Wednesday to walk her farm daily looking for leaks or other problems.

"It's a very sad day for me," Crawford said.

Crawford met with other pipeline opponents earlier this month and officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to discuss a variety of problems the agency found while the pipeline was being built. The agency has said the pipeline is safe and that all problems have been resolved.

But Crawford said that when she asked whether an agency inspector had looked at the portion of pipeline on her property, the agency was unable to answer her question. At the moment, she said, it appears that only TransCanada's inspectors have been on her land, which is "like me owning a restaurant and having the health department inspector on my payroll."

The company planned to hold a news conference later Wednesday.

Plushnick-Masti can be followed on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/RamitMastiAP

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