Keystone XL Pipeline: 'Take The Time To Do it Right'
Former Residents Urge Caution During Visit
By Samar Fay Courier Editor
Published: Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
A brother and sister who graduated from Glasgow High School returned to town last Wednesday to hold “A Conversation About the Pipeline.” Dave and Trish Weber advertised a meeting at the Elks Club and attracted about 40 people to hear their concerns about proceeding too quickly with the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed project that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands in Alberta 1,700 miles across six states to refineries in Texas.
The pipeline would cross under the Missouri River near the confluence of the Milk River, and cross other rivers, including the Yellowstone and the Platte, as well as the giant Ogallala aquifer in the Midwest. Some 284 miles would be built in six Montana counties, including 63 miles in Valley County, which might be worth $2.5 million in annual property taxes.
“I’m not for or against the pipeline,” Dave Weber said. “I’m for doing the job right. I don’t want to see the infrastructure put in place and have our children and our children’s children live with a problem.”
The Webers stated three issues with TransCanada’s Keystone XL project. They said a standard oil pipeline is not appropriate for carrying tar sands oil, a very thick product that is also called diluted bitumen, or “dilbit.” They were worried about inadequate spill response plans. And they questioned TransCanada’s use of eminent domain, even before the pipeline has received the approval it needs from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Tar sands oil is more corrosive than crude oil and it is abrasive because of the sand it contains, Dave Weber said. He said the pipeline carrying it should have different regulations and design requirements to prevent damaging spills.
TransCanada grossly underestimates the volume of a worst-case spill scenario at the Missouri River, Trish Weber said, and doesn’t have the capacity to move enough men and equipment to remote locations in a hurry.
They called for an evaluation of the company’s condemnation powers under eminent domain. Landowners in Nebraska are challenging TransCanada’s assumption that it can seize land for the pipeline, according to the New York Times.
The government’s own environmental impact study, completed in August, said the pipeline would have no major environmental impacts. At that time, approval of the pipeline looked likely, and unions were anticipating thousands of new jobs, but protests from environmentalists have grown in intensity and on Nov. 1, it was reported that a decision on the pipeline could be delayed from this year until after the 2012 presidential election.
The Webers grew up in Glasgow in a family of 10 children. Their parents were Dr. Richard Weber, a dentist, and his wife, June. Both Dave and Trish graduated from Montana State University in engineering. Dave Weber, GHS 1976, was hired by Rockwell International right out of college and spent 23 years as an engineer in the space shuttle program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He retired from the space program in 2003 and now works with another sister as a financial advisor in Missoula.
Trish Weber used her electrical engineering degree in a New York City utility company. She has been in Corvallis, Ore., for the last 17 years, working as a consultant with a civil engineering and land use planning firm.
The Webers said they got very interested in the Keystone XL pipeline when they heard that it would be going in 8 miles from where they grew up. Dave Weber said he was not saying no to the pipeline, but construction shouldn’t proceed until there are adequate safety regulations.
Asked after the meeting if they had paid the expenses for this meeting themselves, Trish Weber said they had a grant from Corporate Ethics International that covered their travel, rental of the hall and the Eugene’s pizzas that were served. CEI is an international non-profit organization that campaigns to change the practices of corporations, and has taken on Walmart, Staples, Shell and Exxon, among others. On their website, they describe a Tar Sand Oil Campaign, a network of 100 organizations dedicated to stopping the expansion of Alberta’s tar sands.
Trish Weber said she and her brother had donated their time to research and prepare their presentation.
“The content is entirely our words,” she said.
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