Arkansas Spill Strengthens Arguments of Keystone Foes

Arkansas Spill Strengthens Arguments of Keystone Foes

An Arkansas pipeline spill that coated streets and lawns with a smelly, asphalt-like crude oil provides opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline with new ammunition to combat the project that would bring more of the tar sands bitumen from Canada.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - An Arkansas pipeline spill that coated streets and lawns with a smelly, asphalt-like crude oil provides opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline with new ammunition to combat the project that would bring more of the tar sands bitumen from Canada.

The Obama administration is expected to issue a decision on expanding the Keystone pipeline in coming months, after an upcoming public hearing that is part of the State Department's assessment of the border-crossing proposal.

The project has become a flashpoint in Washington and a dilemma of sorts for President Barack Obama, who will anger the liberal Democratic base if he approves the pipeline or face condemnation from Republicans and pro-business moderates if he nixes job creation by opposing it.

A recent report by the State Department said the 800-mile Keystone pipeline expansion should have no significant effect on the environment along its proposed route, causing supporters to ratchet up pressure on Obama to approve it.

In Saturday's weekly Republican address, Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska said the Keystone pipeline "is primed to give our economy a shot in the arm and make energy more affordable -- and it won't cost the taxpayers a dime."

Terry spoke a day after the apparent pipeline rupture in the Arkansas town of Mayflower, about 20 miles north of Little Rock, that demonstrated the exact kind of environmental threat predicted by opponents of the Keystone project.

Black torrents of diluted bitumen -- the tar-like oil dug up in northern Alberta that is thinned with chemicals to make it transportable by pipeline -- flowed through the community, forcing evacuation of 22 homes.

"When I got here you could have canoed down the street, there was so much oil running down through there," said Mayflower resident Chris Harrell. Another resident, Amber Bartlett, described the smell of the black sludge on part of her yard as "very intense."

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(Story by Tom Cohen, CNN)

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