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Editorial: Approve the Keystone project despite the protests

Jim Snyder of Bloomberg News reported on how professional protesters are organizing and teaching people how to get arrested and otherwise garner publicity in their attempt to derail the Keystone XL pipeline project.

But just as their protests are not as grassroots, their protests will not help the environment or the public.

Just the opposite. The pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. more than five years ago would reduce the amount of oil transported by rail from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf Coast -- and that would reduce oil spills while protecting the public from rail accidents.

The Manhattan Institute looked at crude oil accidents between 2005 and 2009 and broke down the number of accidents for every ton of oil transported per billion miles.

There were 2.08 incidents per billion ton miles shipped by railroads vs. 0.89 incidents per billion ton miles shipped by pipeline.

Fatalities are rare by rail -- one per every 10 billion ton miles -- but nonetheless the rail fatalities are 33 times the rate for pipelines.

“As America continues to ramp up production of oil and natural gas, our pipeline infrastructure becomes more important. We need better pipelines to get oil from North Dakota to the refineries in the Gulf, and natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania (and New York, should the Empire State allow production to move forward) and the Utica Shale in Ohio to the rest of the country,“ wrote Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the institute.

Instead of studying up on the issue, protesters are studying their tactics. They held training sessions on protesting over the past two weekends in New York, Los Angeles and six other cities.

“We’re trying to create as much pressure as we can on President Obama,” protest organizer Donny Williams told Snyder in a phone interview. “We want to personalize this. This isn’t just the faceless masses.”

West Virginians are familiar with such activism. Outsiders have climbed trees the past few summers to protest surface mining in Southern West Virginia to the delight of TV news crews. It’s a nice pastime.

After they return home, the people who live in Appalachia year-round must deal with balancing economic issues and environmental ones.

The Keystone pipeline issue is simple. President Obama must side with safety and environmental protection -- which means approving the pipeline, no matter how entertaining the protests may be.

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