In mid-June a group of us from The Post took off for Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada to check out oil sands operations before driving down the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. I produced a story about the environmental impacts of different types of extraction methods companies are using to pull the oil out of the sand there, as well as a story about what it’s like to live in Fort McMurray. I put together this moody piece about our departure from Canada and did a quick story about the town in Montana, with a population of only nine, just over the Canada/U.S. border.
We went a little off course to North Dakota to check out the oil boom happening there since some of that oil will likely be shipped to the Keystone. We found that infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the population growth in the western part of the state and many people have struggled to find affordable places to live.
In South Dakota we met rancher John Harter who has been fighting TransCanada in court to try to stop them from bringing the Keystone XL across his land. But TransCanada recently won the case on the grounds of eminent domain. Harter is now hoping he can at least demand more money for the inconvenience of having a pipeline built across his land.
My last stop was in Nebraska, where we went to a cookout and fundraiser in Spalding for state senator Ken Haar. People there wanted to thank Haar for his work to redirect the pipeline from their land, the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer.
My colleagues, Steven Mufson and Michael S. Williamson, along with Mufson’s daughter Natalie, kept going after I returned to Washington, heading down the Port Arthur, Texas to see where the refining process will happen. Keep up with the rest of their journey at www.washingtonpost.com/keystone.
It was eye-opening to get a firsthand look at the oil sands operations in Canada and to see how folks along the proposed pipeline route may be impacted if it comes their way. Environmental, social and political impacts will be important considerations if plans move forward to put this pipeline into place.