Last summer’s oil spill in Michigan has raised concerns about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline controversy, which regular readers of Midwest Energy News are no doubt familiar with, has caught the attention of the Washington Post. There’s not much new here, so I haven’t posted the story to the site, but it’s a good primer for those unfamiliar with the issue.

The Post briefly mentions the unconventional political alliances that have emerged over opposition to the project, something a Los Angeles Times story from the weekend explores in detail.

Early on, Keystone XL fit a fairly standard political narrative. The pipeline was supported by those who saw it as a way to reduce reliance on oil imports from the Middle East, environmentalists opposed it because it would dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s oil sands, among other reasons.

Then an oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico. And after that, a pipeline ruptured, dumping oil into a Michigan river.

That brought concerns over spills to the forefront. The pipeline’s proposed route would cross Nebraska’s Sandhills, a vast expanse of prairie that is treasured by many in the state. And the Sandhills sit atop the Ogallala Aquifer, an even more vast source of fresh water that is critical for the agriculture industry in the arid western half of the state, as well as supplying drinking water to people in eight states.

That brought Nebraska ranchers and other landowners, as well as Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, into the environmentalists’ camp.

And more recently, concerns about a foreign company, TransCanada, exercising eminent domain in the United States have prompted lawsuits in Oklahoma and sparked opposition in oil-friendly Texas.

From the L.A. Times article:

“Basically, what you’re saying is they’re going to shove it down our throat, whether we want it or not?” Charles Crouch, a former refinery worker, said at a meeting on the pipeline last month in Lufkin. “That’s hard to do in Texas, I’ll tell you. We get riled up, and we’re going to figure out a way to stop this thing.”

On top of that, TransCanada recently announced they would build a connection to Keystone XL to North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, opening up new markets for domestic oil as well. How that decision will factor into the political debate is yet to be seen.

Is it wise to bet against a riled-up Texan? Or North Dakota’s bullish-on-oil state leaders? Time will tell. The State Department has yet to make a decision on whether to approve the pipeline.

Photo by Sierra Club via Creative Commons

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.