The United States is currently seeking a state of energy independence from foreign sources of fossil fuels. Part of this push includes the construction of pipelines to transport crude oil across the country. The biggest pipelines covered in the news media over the past few months include the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.
On Jan. 24, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive action pertaining to the construction of the aforementioned pipelines. The order referring to the Keystone XL pipeline specifically invites TransCanada, the operator, to re-apply for its cross-border permit. It also directs the U.S. State Department to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to facilitate its expeditious review.”
How does the construction of these pipelines affect Arkansans? There is currently a pipeline being constructed in our own backyard.
According to the Diamond Pipeline LLC, the 440-mile pipeline would be capable of transferring up to 200,000 barrels of domestic sweet crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma to Memphis, Tennessee. The Diamond Pipeline construction is set to finish later this year.
The positive economic implications would lead to an approximately $11 million increase in property tax revenue for communities along the pipeline route. However, there are many environmental risks associated with transporting fuels and oil through pipelines.
According to the Director of Engineering at Arkansas Department of Health Jeff Stone, the Diamond Pipeline crosses waterways, streams, lakes, or goes through watersheds.
“When the proximity [to drinking water supplies] is closer, more concern needs to be shown and more planning for emergency response done. When they’re further away, it may be a situation where there’s a greater reaction time to any problem that may occur that provides a certain level of safety,” Stone said.
Director of Environmental Health Science at UA Little Rock Carl Stapleton said building pipelines is not something to go into without careful consideration.
“I think it does come to: Where? How many? What is the purpose of this? Do we really have a good handle on the benefits and costs associated?”
In March 2013, an oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas caused 134,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil, mixed with noxious solvents, to flow down a residential street and into a cove of Lake Conway.
“You saw the pipeline break occur in Mayflower, and crude oil, in that case, was spilled. Then an extensive cleaning operation had to be conducted to mitigate the impacts of that spill,” said Stone. “That’s a pretty good example of what a spill means.”
“It’s not a matter of if, but it’s when, and where that seam is going to give, which it did in that neighborhood in Mayflower,” said Stapleton.