SG concerned with oil pipeline project impact

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Student Government passed a resolution supporting student involvement in the proposed Keystone Oil Pipeline Project on Tuesday night. The resolution did not state SG’s opposition to the pipeline but rather called for more environmental and ecological information from the State Department.

Andrew Townsend, assistant director for the Campus Environmental Center, presented legislation opposing the oil pipeline to SG last week. The Keystone Oil Pipeline, a project by energy company TransCanada, would run more than 1,600 miles from Alberta, Canada, and would end in the Nederland and Port Arthur area.

Townsend said he and many members of the CEC were concerned with the environmental impact the pipeline would have on the state of Texas, especially the degradation of air quality and the effect on natural aquifers, which could, in turn, affect the families and homes of UT students.

“We hope that this legislation, if passed by SG, will serve to illustrate the level of concern present in the student body about this issue,” Townsend said.

Townsend said his committee wrote the legislation in preparation for the State Department public hearing about the pipeline to be held Wednesday. 

Questions arose last week about whether the issue of the Keystone pipeline could be considered student life or whether it was solely a political issue. Yaman Desai, chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee, said representatives mainly had concern with the proposed legislation because they felt not enough was known about the pipeline and about the environmental and economical issues it would cause. 

“[Because] we found such contradictory and inconclusive research on the pipeline, many representatives on the committee did not feel comfortable voting in opposition to the pipeline,” Desai said.

The Legislative Affairs Committee killed Townsend’s original bill in session and drafted a new bill calling for student involvement on the issue and for the State Department to provide a new environmental impact statement that would provide more information on risks of the Keystone project on Texas lands and communities during drought conditions.

The bill passed with an amendment that would only ask the State Department to analyze the environmental impacts instead of issuing a new resolution.

School of Law representative Austin Carlson said the original resolution was in the greater political arena instead of the SG arena.

“I am all for having student involvement, but you walk a very fine line when you touch an underlying political issue,” Carlson said.