Tester: TransCanada decision a ‘triple play’ for Montana

Company’s safeguards for proposed pipeline a boost for Montana energy, jobs, safety

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Calling it a ‘triple play’ for Montana, Senator Jon Tester today praised a decision by TransCanada Corporation to agree to operate its proposed Keystone KXL pipeline using an oil pressure deemed safer for rural America.

“This is a win for energy development in eastern Montana, a win for the good-paying jobs that come with it, and a win for higher safety standards in rural America,” Tester said.  “This decision is a triple play for Montana.”

Tester in February raised concerns about TransCanada’s request to operate the pipeline at a higher-than-typical pressure without using thicker steel in the pipeline’s construction.  These proposals together, Tester said, would have increased the risk of accidents and spills in Montana and other parts of rural America where the pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico—will be built.

Representatives from TransCanada told Tester that they will withdraw their request to operate the Keystone KXL pipeline at a higher pressure.  TransCanada also agreed to bury the pipeline at a depth of four feet, conduct frequent inspections and treat the pipeline with an anti-corrosive coating—all increased safety factors.

“This decision will benefit eastern Montana’s economy,” Tester said.  “And it means work on the pipeline will move forward in a safer, responsible way that won’t put Montana communities at risk.”

Representatives from TransCanada met with Tester this week to confirm that plans will proceed for construction of the pipeline but that the project would include standard industry safety measures.

The text of Tester’s February letter to TransCanada appears below.


February 23, 2010

Jeff Wiese
Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety
U.S . Department o f Transportation
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
East Building, 2nd Floor
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Mr. Wiese:

I am writing to ask you to make sure that landowners, public safety officials and communities in Montana who may be affected by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have a full and fair chance to evaluate and comment on pipeline safety plans and potential impacts before the Department of Transportation makes final decisions and before construction begins.

It is my understanding that TransCanada has applied for a special permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline under your agency 's regulations. I understand that the special permit would allow TransCanada to operate the Keystone XL Pipeline at 80% of the maximum pressure the pipe is designed to withstand rather than 72% which U.S. regulations would otherwise require. In effect, then, the special permit would allow TransCanada to use thinner, cheaper steel.

I also understand that, although TransCanada will be required to submit an emergency response plan for your approval before it may begin shipping oil , under your agency's current review procedures, there is no requirement that the company's plan be made available for review and comment by affected residents, landowners, emergency responders or local officials before you approve it or before pipeline construction begins. Given the enormous potential costs of dealing with a pipeline leak or spill, and the very limited resources available to local emergency response agencies and local governments along the route of this pipeline, I believe these agencies must be consulted and their needs and concerns satisfied before your agency takes any action approving
pipeline construction.

Under the special permit, as TransCanada has applied for it, the company will use thicker, safer steel in what your rules call "High Consequence Areas:" railroad crossings, highways, river crossings, and "High Population Areas." Of course, most of the rural areas in Montana through which the proposed route would run are not “High Consequence Areas” as your regulations define them. Many questions have been raised in Montana about whether it is fair or wise to provide more protection, in the form of thicker steel, for a few areas along the route, while most of the route is constructed with thinner, cheaper steel. Montanans have told me they do not appreciate the implication that their farms, ranches, outdoor recreation areas, and small towns are  “Low Consequence Areas."

I would like to make sure that the farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in my state are not treated as if they live in a "Low Consequence Area." Accordingly, I urge you not to issue a special permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, at least until Keystone's request for a special permit, and its emergency response plan arc analyzed in an Environmental Impact Statement, with an opportunity for review and comment by the public. The citizens and communities along the proposed route have a right to a complete analysis of the risks and the costs of alternative methods to prevent and mitigate the economic and environmental damage from potential spills and leaks. The State Department's EIS process now underway can and should provide that opportunity.

I look forward to working with you as you fulfill your responsibility to ensure that TransCanada uses the safest available materials and practices in constructing, operating, and maintaining the pipeline.


Senator Jon Tester