Science, Tech & Environment

A decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is almost here

Keystone-Oil-Pipeline.jpg

The Keystone Oil Pipeline is pictured under construction in North Dakota.

Credit:

TransCanada via Reuters

How much is Ken Winston opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline? "Let me count the ways," he says.

Winston is the policy advocate for the Nebraska Sierra Club. He argues that the controversial pipeline extension, which was proposed in 2008, would help enable one of the most "environmentally destructive activities on the planet:" extracting tar from sand.

That's what TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline, does in the province of Alberta. And, as Winston says, it's come at a devastating cost to the region's plant and animal life — not to mention the potential effects on the Nebraska farmers whose lands the company wants to use for the pipeline.

But of course, the Keystone XL pipeline represents many other things to many other people than just environmental disaster: economic necessity, energy independence, misguided investment or even negligible impact on the world energy market.

As John Keuhne, a member of Nebraska’s Southern Public Power District Board of Directors, contends, Nebraskans who own the land on which the original Keystone pipeline runs "don’t even know that it’s there."

As the country debates the best way forward, President Obama is also deciding how to proceed with the project. He's promised to let the public know his decision — after the November midterm elections. He's already rejected a previous TransCanada application, and the company's latest attempt has been in limbo for months, frustrating both advocates and critics of the project.

Ahead of that decision, PRI's America Abroad is teaming up with CBC Calgary for a discussion about the controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian pipelines, oil sands extraction and energy security. Audiences in Lincoln, Nebraska and Calgary, Canada will be able to talk to each other about how the oil sands industry and the building of the Keystone XL pipeline directly affects their lives.

This discussion will try to highlight the different angles and constituencies from both Canada and the United States to give the public a broader sense of the issue and what's at stake — from jobs and economic impact to pollution and the potential for oil spills.

At the center of the issue is TransCanada itself and representing the company in Calgary is Corey Goulet, their vice president in charge of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.

Goulet is joined in Calgary by Andrew Leach, Enbridge professor of Energy Policy at the University of Alberta. Professor Leach has researched the pipeline extensively and has blogged about its impact on climate and the environment.

The town hall will be co-hosted by Hari Sreenivasan of the PBS NewsHour and Donna McElligott of “Alberta at Noon” in Calgary. PRI.org will feature a live webcast starting at 8 pm Eastern Time on Monday, September 22, 2014.

Here's information if you want to attend the town hall in either Lincoln or Calgary. Tickets are free, but you have to reserve them.  To join the conversation on Twitter, follow the hashtag #KXLtownhall or comment on Facebook.

America Abroad is PRI's monthly public radio documentary program on international affairs. You can watch a recording of the town hall below.