Lou Snead's Austin American Statesman Editorial

Pipeline poses enviromental harm
Lou Sneed, Local Contributor

Published: 7:09 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011

The Interfaith Environmental Network, the Austin chapter of Texas Interfaith Power and Light, is a coalition of individuals and congregations from a variety of faith traditions committed to environmental stewardship. We are opposed to the proposal submitted to the U.S. State Department by TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry bitumen crude petroleum 1,661 miles from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, down to refineries in Houston.

We were saddened to read a recent editorial from the Chicago Tribune supporting the construction of this proposed pipeline for what appears to be purely economic interests to satisfy our nation's continued dependence on oil. Our opposition to the proposed tar sands pipeline is based on several environmental concerns and moral issues:

We are in agreement with the stated desire of the presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama to have our nation move away from its "addiction to oil" and instead invest in renewable energy sources and employ better efficiency and conservation practices for the health of our planet and our pocketbooks in the long term. This proposed pipeline is simply another expensive, short-term effort by the oil industry to circumvent the more urgent need to invest in renewable energy infrastructures. We believe it is morally and spiritually unconscionable to continue to burden future generations with our reliance on fossil fuels. Developing this proposed pipeline reflects an unwillingness to find the collective will to take the necessary steps to start practicing prudent stewardship of the earth's resources for our present and future energy needs.

Tar sand bitumen is used primarily to produce synthetic petroleum. Synthetic crude from bitumen is expensive and complicated to produce. As the global demand for oil continues to increase, this Canadian source of petroleum energy will not be less affordable than other forms of cleaner energy that our nation could invest in now without the risk of oil line leaks or explosions.

The mining of this kind of oil in Canada's pristine boreal forests is incredibly destructive for habitat, wildlife and human life — and it significantly increases greenhouse gas emissions at a critical time in our effort to combat global warming.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would run through environmentally sensitive areas in the United States, including the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies 30 percent of the groundwater for American agriculture as well as about 80 percent of the drinking water for people who live within the aquifer's eight state boundary. A spill over that aquifer would be disastrous. To suggest that potential breaks in a transcontinental pipeline would be unlikely turns a blind eye to the huge environmental risks that are always involved in oil delivery systems, such as the recent oil line polluting of the Yellowstone River.

As those in the faith community who believe that the care of the earth is a critical spiritual issue for our time, we deplore the attitude reflected in the Chicago Tribune editorial that places financial benefits and the availability of more fossil fuels ahead of environmental protection and more sustainable energy sources.

For these reasons, we are praying and acting in the hope that the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration will reject the application from TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States.

Snead is pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church and a steering team member for the Interfaith Environmental Network of Austin.

Read the Chicago Tribune editorial at bit.ly/qMuHib.

© 2013 Interfaith Environmental Network