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TransCanada Notes: 11 Leaks, Myopic Gov… Cheaper Electricity?

Last updated on 2011.09.01

Canadian tar sands oil has been flowing again beneath our fair prairie with minimal incident this week. TransCanada's Keystone pipeline, which was only supposed to leak maybe once every seven years, blew a pumping station gasket for the eleventh time on May 7. The Natural Resource Defense Council courteously supplies a list of spill dates and National Response Center reports (I've added the county for each):

  1. May 21, 2010 (Clark, SD)
  2. June 23, 2010 (Miner, SD)
  3. August 10, 2010 (Hutchinson, SD)
  4. August 19, 2010 (Cedar, NE)
  5. January 5, 2011 (Day, SD)
  6. January 31, 2011 (Clinton, MO)
  7. February 3, 2011 (Payne, OK)
  8. February 23, 2011 (Cowley, KS)
  9. March 8, 2011 (Sargent, ND)
  10. March 16, 2011 (Nemaha, KS)
  11. May 7, 2011 (Sargent, ND)
  12. Update! May 29, 2011 (Doniphan, KS)
  13. Update! While below the amount that requires reporting, the Roswell pumping station in Miner County, SD, sprang a second leak on May 25, 2011.

An accident rate 77 times greater than TransCanada predicted doesn't concern South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard. He's still confident TransCanada's safety standards will keep the people and resources along the Keystone and proposed Keystone XL routes safe. I try to give Governor Daugaard credit, but his myopia on TransCanada looks like a bad case of choosing a preferred conservative worldview over blatant facts.

Speaking of conservative, our Public Utilities Commission's 2007 Final Decision and Order on the Keystone Pipeline assured us that TransCanada's "spill frequency and volume estimates are conservative by design, overestimating the risk since the intent is to use the assessment for planning purposes. The risk assessment overestimates the probable size of a spill to ensure conservatism in emergency response and other planning objectives." Once again, South Dakota state government appears to render the word "conservative" meaningless. Pumping stations are obvious points of increased system complexity and risk. A real "conservative" risk analysis would not declare that leaks at pumping stations don't count. Real conservative regulators would have called TransCanada on that omission.

In other TransCanada newsthree environmental groups filed suit this week against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to force her make public communications between herself and former campaign aide turned TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott. (Remember, Clinton has to sign off on the federal permit to allow TransCanada to build Keystone XL.)

Think about that: greenies wrestling Hillary over a lobbyist. I'm still waiting for my conservative blog friends to sink their teeth into that red meat.

But Keystone XL may not be all oil spills and crony capitalism. NTV's Steve White reports that the pipeline could reduce consumer electricity costs:

Southern CEO Gary Hedman estimates his public power district has $24 million in fixed costs annually, above and beyond the cost of power.

The power they would supply to the oil pipeline would instantly make TransCanada one of Southern's biggest customers, alongside five ethanol plants Southern powers.

Hedman says because Southern's not a private company, but a public utility, the benefits are shared with customers.

Gary Hedman said, "If you put Keystone sales in there with ours, on an average house it would drop an average of $45 a year and that's not just Merrick County that's the entire district."

The elected board at Southern Power is in favor of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. They see it as a major economic development project [Steve White, "Oil Pipeline Could Benefit Public Power," NTV, 2011.05.19].

Perhaps that will be the saving grace of the Keystone XL pipeline: it will make it cheaper for folks to drive their new electric cars.