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Final Fight for the Keystone Pipeline

the most controversial Big Oil project in America

1 - 1 of 1 posts

robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
1 12 Oct 2017

Two of the fiercest holdouts along the proposed pipeline route are Art and Helen Tanderup, Bold members who have come to take the fossil-fuel economy as a personal insult. On a visit to their farm, Art takes me down to the rye field where, in 2014, Willie Nelson and Neil Young played for 8,000 anti-pipeline demonstrators, and points out a row of cottonwood trees that screen the fields from the road. "That's where the line comes through," he says. "We've about picked out the trees we'd have to sit in."

Art is past 60 and nearly as wide as he is tall, but he isn't joking. In 2012, the TransCanada land agent who told Art and Helen about the Keystone XL presented the pipeline as "the best thing since sliced bread," Helen says. TransCanada offered good money and promised to restore the topsoil – the Tanderups would never even know the line was there. "Boy, by the time she got done you just wanted to jump up and salute the American flag," Art says. The land agent, he adds, was especially clear about one thing: This pipeline was shipping "crude oil." Something about the pitch didn't sit right with them, though, so Art did some research. "And I went, 'Oh, my God, this isn't oil.' "

The Keystone XL, the Tanderups discovered, would carry diluted bitumen, one of the new science-fiction technologies the energy industry has been moving toward for the past decade. Oil companies bulldoze Alberta forest to expose a thick, semi-solid tar, which is melted out of the ground with superheated steam, and diluted with byproducts of fracked natural gas. The Keystone XL is designed to send this concoction down to Texas, where, under a great deal of heat and pressure, refineries can "crack" it into crude oil. Beneath the Tanderups' farm lies the greatest expanse of fresh water on the continent: the Oglalla Aquifer, an underground reservoir twice the volume of the Great Lakes. It is because of this aquifer that the prairies are a breadbasket to the world; in some places, the water table is so high that fence postholes fill with water. "If that thing leaks," Art says of the pipeline, "it goes down into the water table, and we aren't gonna know about it until something dies."