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The World Watch column in our May/June 2014 issue opposing the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to bring tar sands oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast generated a flurry of reader responses. Of the 48 letters and emails we received on the topic, all but three were critical of the position of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (MOGC) in Washington, D.C., which researches and reports issues for Maryknoll that affect the world’s most vulnerable people. Unfortunately, some points made in that column against the pipeline were summarized and not fully explained. We regret our lapse in not providing backup or sourcing and so at the end of this column we list two website links provided by MOGC that give more detailed explanations of the concerns about the pipeline.

Out of respect for our readers and our commitment to listen to diverse voices, we devote the rest of this space to reader responses. While we cannot run all the letters, we offer a sample of the various points expressed.

My wife and I were disappointed that Maryknoll allowed the Keystone pipeline story to be published in the May/June 2014 MARYKNOLL magazine with so many untruths and wild accusations. The pipeline cannot be the most important environmental issue for the Maryknollers. Pollution in the third world, nuclear accidents and loss of rain forests are significantly more important and have a greater impact on indigenous populations and the world’s environment.

In the article, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns states that it is opposed to “continuation of fossil fuel addiction.” A more adverse impact will occur if there is no pipeline. The oil will continue to be transported by truck and rail car, creating a worse environmental impact. There are more spills from rail and trucks than from pipelines.

Why are labor unions supporting the pipeline if there are so few jobs created? The article claims the bulk of the oil will be exported, thereby increasing the cost for both U.S. and foreign consumers. Are you opposed to “fossil fuel addiction” or the cost? Increasing supply will lower costs. We are sure Europe, the Baltic States and Ukraine would be thrilled to have this energy rather than the blackmail prices they must pay to Russia.

It’s easy to oppose fossil fuel. Doing so without having a viable solution is not being honest. Wind and solar costs are higher than fossil fuel, and they have their own environmental problems.

Henry and Jane Meisner
Freehold, New Jersey


I’m upset about your magazine article on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s not only Canada crude. It might be North Dakota crude too. That pipeline is a lot safer than rail. I’m a farmer and our neighbors west of us have a pipeline running from Canada to Wyoming. I bet you can’t tell me where it is as we drive over it. It’s been there for over 20 years and never had a spill. The oil line will be built but it may go through Canada to the West Coast and get shipped to China.

Leroy Keller
Havre, Montana


As a monthly supporter of Maryknoll, I was upset over your magazine article regarding the Keystone pipeline. Not to debate pros and cons of the proposed pipeline, I always believed that my support of Maryknoll was for mission, not for a political action group. I want to continue to support missions and my hope is you can keep political issues out of Maryknoll.

Robert B. Rote
Houston, Texas


I was upset by the view you took concerning the Keystone XL pipeline. Most of the views expressed in the May/June issue centered on “what might happen” instead of “what will happen.” Much of the oil collected in Canada will be transported to Texas with or without the pipeline. It will be transported via truck and there will be accidents costing human lives, besides the possibility of contamination. This is something that will happen.

As far as jobs, I believe many unemployed workers would jump at the opportunity to work on this pipeline and will be going into those states to make what money is to be made there.
The article states that faith-based groups express their opposition to the pipeline. I suggest they stay to things they know—faith subjects—and stay out of things they don’t know—oil and pipelines.

Charles Backes
Wilmington, North Carolina


Your article on the Keystone XL pipeline has us very concerned. Accuracy is always important. Knowing one’s place is equally necessary. We support the concept of liberation theology—using the Church in its spiritual realm to affect secular decisions to best assist those in need. However, your article far exceeds the interests of the Church. You have become a politically based publication. That’s depressing.

You suggest the boreal forest of Alberta is being destroyed. Most of the tar sands land was not forested. Did you ever chastise American businesses when they were involved in destruction of forests in the Amazon Basin?

You worry about indigenous communities. There is an impact, much like there is with any construction project in any community.

Why use the phrase “low income persons of color”? Are you suggesting only the “colored people” are poor? Your comment was highly inappropriate.

You say only 35 permanent jobs will be created. You obviously don’t understand the immensity of the project and the continuing employment needed to organize, direct, monitor, assess cost control, research ongoing and new systems, process 800,000 barrels of oil a day, plus seafaring jobs and so on.

We grant spills could occur. However, the proposal includes shutoff valves at least every half mile and other safety measures.

When are you going to object to your oil rigs in the Caribbean and instruct your Catholic community “to freeze next year”?

Michael Pawlowski
Hamilton, Ontario


We have subscribed to MARYKNOLL nearly 60 years and have enjoyed watching what Maryknoll has done in the foreign countries where they are located. The story in the May/June issue on the Keystone XL pipeline is out of line. We drive our cars and heat our homes with this oil. The people protesting on page 57 should get on their bicycles and go home, then turn off their gas and electricity. That would reduce the need for more pipelines.

John Olinger
Golden Valley, Minnesota


Thank you for your coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline because of the environmental damage that it would cause and the health issues due to this oil’s negative impact on the air and water quality.

The oil in these tar sands is a thick heavy bitumen the consistency of tar. It will significantly worsen carbon pollution and seriously risk an acceleration of climate change.

I hope that President Obama will not bow to the powerful business groups who want this dirty oil while glossing over environmental and health concerns. His decision on this will be one of the defining statements of his presidency.

Gerry O’Shea
Yonkers, New York

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