The other morning I took a call, like so many other calls I’ve taken over the last four years, from another Dakota farmer wondering how his land may be affected by the Keystone XL pipeline. He had a notice of condemnation and interrogatories from TransCanada in hand, and I wish I’d had better news for him. He’s in the path of a monster. Keystone XL will be a 36-inch-diameter pipeline, carrying nine times the volume of the Silvertip line that just vomited 1,000 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River. It will cross some of the most isolated places in the high plains, cutting through the ecologically fragile Nebraska Sandhills and the irreplaceable Ogallala aquifer.
Keystone XL won’t carry “light, sweet” crude, which floats on top of water and can be mopped up with absorbent booms. Bitumen — a tarlike substance mined from the Alberta tar sands, chemically diluted, and heated to improve flow — will travel at high pressure across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska... Read more