A single study by the U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota is the sole source for what scientists know about crude oil behavior in aquifers
By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News
WASHINGTON—Great Plains states are risking an unknown level of environmental and economic hurt if the U.S. State Department persists in routing a controversial tar sands pipeline atop the Ogallala Aquifer without further study.
That is the scientific warning coming from a pair of University of Nebraska professors with expertise in groundwater flow and contamination.
In a June 6 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (attached below), the two scientists laid out how their state’s fragile sandhills region is particularly vulnerable to crude oil pollution from a pipeline spill and why a research information gap needs to be closed.
Their concerns align with those expressed by Environmental Protection Agency authorities in their recent harsh critique of the State Department’s second attempt to draft an environmental review of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline.
TransCanada’s 1,702-mile Keystone XL is slated to pump diluted bitumen from Alberta, Canada’s tar sands mines across Nebraska and five other states to Gulf Coast oil refineries via a 36-inch diameter underground pipeline.
“Uncertainty about crude oil plume behavior in waters of the Nebraska sandhills region has practical implications,” wrote John Gates, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Wayne Woldt, an associate professor in Biological Systems Engineering and the School of Natural Resources. “We feel that it is highly desirable to study contaminant risks in the sandhills in a more thorough and systematic way.”