After countless marches, arrests, Congressional votes, and editorials, the five-and-a-half year battle over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is nearing its end. If a recent ruling in Nebraska doesn’t delay the decision further, America could find out as soon as this spring whether or not the pipeline, which has become a focal point in America’s environmental movement, will be built.
But while critics and proponents of Keystone XL have sparred over the last few years, numerous pipelines — many of them slated to carry the same Canadian tar sands crude as Keystone — have been proposed, permitted, and even seen construction begin in the U.S. and Canada. Some rival Keystone XL in size and capacity; others, when linked up with existing and planned pipelines, would carry more oil than the 1,179-mile pipeline.
With the public eye turned on Keystone, some of these pipelines have faced little opposition. But it’s not just new pipelines that worry Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust. Weimer said companies are beginning to revamp old pipelines by expanding their capacity or reversing their flow, changes that can be troubling if proper safety measures aren’t put in place.
“Some of these pipelines have been in the ground for 40, 50, 60 years, so they were put in the ground before pipelines had the latest and greatest coatings or before the welding was up to snuff,” he said. “So there’s lots of issues about how you verify that the pipe that’s been in the ground that long is really up to additional pressures.”