As part of the State Department’s review of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, 1.2 million comments have been received from interested parties including environmental groups and the public at large. The Department of the Interior has commented too, expressing concern that TransCanada’s impact during construction and during pipeline operation will disrupt the “cultural soundscapes” and “high quality night skies” at national parks and recreation areas distant from the actual route.
The pipeline won’t pass near the most-visited parks, such as Yellowstone in Wyoming. It will cross the popular Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, which stretches across 11 states, and the Missouri National Recreational River in South Dakota and Nebraska, which combined draw an average more than 386,000 visitors a year, according to park service data.
Now wait just a second. The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail is, essentially, the Missouri River. The Trail starts in St. Louis and follows the Big Muddy all the way to the Continental Divide. The Keystone XL route crosses it in eastern Montana, not in Nebraska and not near the Missouri National Recreational River. The dozens of historical sites managed by the National Park Service along the entire dispersed route of the Trail are visited by something just over 0.1% of the U.S. population annually.
(Ironically, the original Keystone I Pipeline, the one already in operation, runs right through the Missouri National Recreational River that the Keystone XL will skirt by 30 miles or more.) The maps are reproduced at the end of this post.
The Interior Department’s comments faulted the environmental review’s recommendation for noise near pump stations to meet the level common in communities rather than for a park environment “where many people go to get away from the clamor of everyday life.”
And how do they get from their homes to the idyllic national parks, away from the clamor of everyday life? It’s a fair bet most of them get there in planes, trains and automobiles, which run on — that’s right — petroleum products.
We all live near pipelines. For the most part, they are quiet and trouble free, and the safest form of transportation for the fuels that power our “clamorous” lives.
What is a “cultural soundscape” you ask?
220.127.116.11 Cultural Soundscape Management
Culturally appropriate sounds are important elements of the national park experience in many parks. The Service will preserve soundscape resources and values of the parks to the greatest extent possible to protect opportunities for appropriate transmission of cultural and historic sounds that are fundamental components of the purposes and values for which the parks were established. Examples of appropriate cultural and historic sounds include native drumming (at Yosemite National Park, for example), music (at New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, for example), and bands, marching, cannon fire, or other military demonstrations at some national battlefield parks. The Service will prevent inappropriate or excessive types and levels of sound (noise) from unacceptably impacting the ability of the soundscape to transmit the cultural and historic resource sounds associated with park purposes.
(See Soundscape Management 4.9; Recreational Activities 8.2.2. Also see 36 CFR 2.12: Audio Disturbances)
It’s difficult to imagine how the pipeline’s construction could interfere, even at a distance, with such things as these.
Did you see A Man Called Horse? How many oil pipelines were there, on the Missouri River? Zero, that’s how many.
“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
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