PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

August 29, 2011

County lends support to TransCanada pipeline

BEAUMONT — Just three days after the U.S. State Department issued it’s final Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, Jefferson County Commissioners threw their support behind the project that is expected to create jobs and lessen the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

Issued Friday by the State Department, the report determined that there would be no significant impact on the environment from the TransCanada pipeline project.

The proposed 1,700 pipeline would bring tar sands crude oil from Canada all the way to Gulf Coast refineries, including those in Port Arthur. Along the way, the pipeline is expected to create thousands of jobs and lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

“This means energy security from a very friendly nation,” Jeff Branick, Jefferson County judge said Monday during the regular County Commissioner’s meeting.

The pipeline also means jobs, and lots of them.

Lynn Hancock, TransCanada spokesperson from the company’s Houston office, said Monday at Commissioner’s Court.

In total, the pipeline is expected to bring 20,000 jobs. Of those, 1,300 are anticipated to be “shovel-ready” jobs during construction and another 7,000 from manufacturing. Hancock said it was too early to determine how many of those jobs would be created in Jefferson County.

The TransCanada pipeline is expected to add $20 billion in construction costs to the nation’s economy, and create more than 118,000 “spin-off” jobs.

Locally, Valero is expected to ship oil via the Keystone XL pipeline if it’s approved. The pipeline is anticipated to move 700,000 barrels of oil a day.

Not everyone was in support of the pipeline project.

Nationwide, environmentalists have warned the pipeline would impact groundwater resources, surface water bodies, has the potential for spills, could impact the stability of a fault zone in the path of the pipeline, harm wildlife and pose health risks.

Richard C. Harrel, a professor of biology at Lamar University, and president for Beaumont’s Clean Air and Water, Inc., said the group is opposed to the pipeline coming into the U.S.

“Tar sands oil is very acid, has a high concentration of sulfur and heavy metals as well as sand,” Harrel said.

Transporting it through the 1,700 mile pipeline would be very much like sandblasting the pipes, he said.

Branick said he understood both sides, had thoroughly researched the proposed pipeline, and had studied Friday’s State Department report before reaching the conclusion that the project would be advantageous to the area.

“At the end of the day because of our increased refining capacities, we will need more crude,” Branick said.

The need for additional crude would have to come from additional ship traffic, via pipelines or both, he said.

If the pipeline does not go through the U.S., tar sands will likely be exported to China, he said.

Along with Branick, all four of the Commissioner’s Court were in favor of the project, and voted unaminously to approve a resolution of support.

“This pipeline is very, very important for our economy,” Everett “Bo” Alfred, Precinct 4 Commissioner, said.

The issuance of the State Department’s final Environmental Impact Report is one step in the review process and does not represent a final decision on the permit application.

Hancock said a series of public meetings are scheduled to gain citizen input from the six states the pipeline will run through. In Texas, an additional meeting will be in Jefferson County. The meeting is scheduled from 4:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. at the Robert E. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur.

According to the State Department’s Web site, a final determination is expected by the end of the year.

skoonce@panews.com

 

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