photo via greenpeace
Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen wrote to President Obama today to express his concern about the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Van Hollen, currently ranking member on the House Budget Committee and a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, wrote that he was concerned about pipeline safety, public health impacts, and greenhouse gas emissions caused by the 1,700-mile long pipeline that would carry bitumen from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. Van Hollen joins other policymakers who are asking the president to take another look at the pipeline before her approves or denies it. Unlike other key environmental decisions, Obama alone can decide whether or not to permit the pipeline. Congress plays no role.
Last week, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman sent a letter to the president asking him to deny the permit for the project. Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns has also expressed concern. In Nebraska, the pipeline would cross over the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies groundwater for irrigation to 30 percent of the US.
Mike Tidwell, Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), applauded Van Hollen's move:
"Congressman Van Hollen's leadership on the Keystone XL pipeline issue is welcome and appreciated. His letter today to the White House raises key concerns involving increased greenhouse gas emissions, pipeline safety and public health impacts. CCAN urges President Obama to take Van Hollen's letter seriously."
When Van Hollen writes about his concerns over pipeline safety, he's standing on top of mountains of evidence that show how the regulatory system set up to avoid spills is broken. The New York Times wrote this weekend about how the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the regulatory agency for pipeline operators, is understaffed and under assault from right leaning lawmakers who want to make it policy for the oil companies to be left to police themselves. Check out this inforgraphic from the Times that shows how since 1990 110 million gallons of oil have been spilled in the US alone.