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Keystone Pipeline hopes revived

President-elect Donald Trump’s 100-day action plan to make America great again will touch on an issue close to home.

One of seven actions he cites as a way to protect American workers is to lift the Obama-Clinton “roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone (XL) Pipeline, to move forward.”

The TransCanada Keystone Pipeline already exists, John Durkay, legal counsel for Southeast Texas Plant Managers Forum, said, referring to the southern leg, or the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project, which begins in Cushing, Okla., and ends in Nederland. “The area is already refining Canadian oil sands, and any ability to get an increased amount (of product) would be good for the area.”

Durkay said that it would be beneficial if the Keystone XL Pipeline were to be fully completed.

“It would help area refineries who are interested in working with the crude and ready and want to do so.”

Canadian oil sands, also called tar sands, are a mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen. The proposed 1,179-mile pipe would run from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Neb., then join the existing line. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day. The section from Oklahoma to Texas opened in January 2014.

The proposed pipeline has been in a limbo of sorts for years. In 2015, President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL proposal saying the project “would not serve the interests of the United States.” He cited impact on the environment and a political climate that over-hyped the pipeline’s benefit, according to NBC news.

In January 2016, TransCanada announced legal action under the North American Free Trade Agreement and initiated Constitutional litigation against the U.S. Administration, according to www.keystone-xl.com.

The renewed interest in the Keystone XL Pipeline has environmentalists worried.

Reggie James of the Lonestar Chapter of the Sierra Club said the national chapter worked hard on the issue, and, in his opinion, work on the country’s emergency infrastructure should involve cleaner energy.

“We need to try and make sure we have secure transmission. Texas is a leader in wind power, and we’re coming up rapidly on solar and want to ensure we have transmissions infrastructure to bring this to the forefront and reduce our dependency on carbon based products,” James said. “We need energy infrastructure that leads us into the future, not keep alive a past that’s not helping us.”

Hilton Kelley, recipient of the 2011 Goldman Prize North America, an environmentalist and Port Arthur native, believes that rolling back roadblocks and allowing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline would cause an increase in sulfur emissions at refineries and chemical plants.

The increase in volume would bring an increase in emissions, he said, and tar sands are a dirty crude that’s heavier than other crude from petroleum.

“One thing I’m really troubled about is that most of the products made from the tar sands are not even used in the U.S. They are shipped overseas, where there are no regulations on toxins,” Kelley said.

Kelley said he does not believe the increase in product volume is good for communities right next to the refineries.

“I think it’s a slap in the face of all who worked so hard to reduce emissions,” he said. “In the city of Port Arthur and surrounding areas here is already a disproportionate number of kids and elderly folks presently suffering from respiration problems and cancer.”

Kelley said he will follow the issue closely and he worries of the effect of the Trump presidency on environmental work.