TransCanada, a leading North American pipeline operator, started operation of Keystone I, a 36-inch pipeline system, in June 2010, making it possible to deliver Canadian oil to markets across Midwest farmland in several states, from the Dakotas through Illinois. Keystone XL will incorporate a section of that existing pipeline in its delivery through the bottom half of the US.
Environmentalists say TransCanada has a failed safety record regarding its pipeline operations.
Federal regulators shut down Keystone I following two leaks, on May 7 and May 29. The first released 400 barrels, or 16,800 gallons, of crude oil in Sargent County, North Dakota. The second involved a leak at a pump station in Doniphan County, Kan., which released 10 barrels, or 420 gallons, of crude oil into the environment. The pipeline was restarted days later.
In a statement, Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer said “TransCanada takes all incidents very seriously … none of the incidents involved the pipe in the ground. The integrity of Keystone is sound.”
In its environmental impact statement, the US State Department said the existing pipeline experienced 14 spills since June 2010. Seven were 10 gallons or less, two were between 300 and 500 gallons, and one was 21,000 gallons.
The State Department estimates that the maximum the Keystone XL could potentially spill would be 2.8 million gallons along an area of 1.7 miles.
The Canadian government said Thursday it expects Obama to approve the pipeline.
Environment Minister Peter Kent told Reuters that his government “can look forward to eventual approval by the American government” and that TransCanada had “perhaps one of the best records of any pipeline operator” in North America.