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Your editorial (Regrettable proof of oil pipeline risk, July 8) regarding a recent Exxon oil pipeline incident is akin to rightly commiserating a tragic highway accident one day and wrongly concluding the next day that Americans should stop driving, or building highways and vehicles.

The fact is we can't stop driving or building cars, trucks and roads. We need to drive. We need roads. The same is true for crude oil pipelines. We need crude oil. And we need pipelines to deliver it.

It's a simple matter of perspective. And perspective always should be informed by facts rather than emotional reactions.

When assessing the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline and the relative risks, we should consider these facts, all of which help to put the project in the proper perspective:

* Pipelines are the safest method of moving oil -- safer than tankers, trucks or rail, by a wide margin.

* Each day in the United States, more than 200,000 miles of pipelines move oil and other energy products safely to where they are needed.

* Each year, billions of gallons of crude oil and petroleum products are transported safely by pipelines.

* There are 21,000 miles of pipelines crossing Nebraska, including 3,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines. Many miles of these pipelines co-exist within the Ogallala aquifer.

* Six thousand barrels of oil are produced daily in Nebraska, and tens of thousands of barrels are produced in adjacent states through the Ogallala aquifer. In Nebraska, 17 of 18 oil-producing counties sit atop the aquifer.

* Nearly every gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel used in Nebraska moves through a pipeline as crude oil and again through a pipeline as a refined product. In addition to transportation, many other industries get raw materials by pipeline, including food, drugs and pharmaceuticals, plastics, chemicals and road construction.

* Spills along liquid pipeline rights-of-way have fallen from two incidents per thousand miles in 1999-2001 to 0.8 incidents per thousand miles in 2005-2007, a decline of 60 percent. This declining trend in releases was experienced even though volumes of Canadian crude oil have increased.

* National pipeline statistics indicate that pipeline accidents are uncommon. While the industry does not accept any leaks, leaks tend to be small: 80 percent of spills involve less than 50 barrels and less than 0.5 percent of spills total more than 10,000 barrels.

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Keystone XL would have a degree of safety over any other existing U.S pipeline, according to the federal government's draft environmental impact statement.

It monitors its pipeline system through a centralized high-tech center 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and uses satellite technology that sends data every five seconds from 16,000 data points to its control center.

If a drop in pressure is detected, Keystone can isolate any section of its pipeline by remotely closing any of the hundreds of valves on the system within minutes to minimize the volume and impact of a spill.

Route selection for Keystone XL was not arbitrary. It was based on a comprehensive assessment of the risks, impacts and feasibility, a two-year process that was guided by the conditions of the National Environmental Protection Act.

Further, at a time when unemployment and gasoline prices are too high and the economy is too weak, this important project will create 20,000 jobs in the United States, add more than $20 billion to the economy and reduce gasoline prices nationwide.

These are all facts. We believe that, together, these facts make a compelling argument in favor of Keystone XL and provide the perspective that's required when assessing such an important project. For those reasons, we, among thousands of other Americans, support Keystone XL.

Andrew Black is president & CEO of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines. David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance.


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