Keystone XL Pipeline, Meet Oklahoma Earthquakes

by Woodson Powell

The Keystone Pipeline System is a three phase oil pipeline running through Canada and the United States. Phase I, the Keystone Pipeline, delivers oil from Hardisty, Alberta (in Canada) to Steele City, Nebraska, and eventually Roxana and Patoka, Illinois. Phase II, the Keystone-Cushing extension, runs from Steele City to Cushing, Oklahoma. The Gulf Coast Extension, Phase III, delivers oil from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas. The Keystone XL Pipeline is the proposed fourth phase, improving on Phase I, with a shorter route and a larger-diameter pipe, but was rejected largely due to environmental concerns, such as fracking []. Last month, reports surfaced of the Keystone XL Pipeline project possibly being resurrected, which is making people think about those same fracking concerns, specifically earthquakes in Oklahoma.

So far, in less than two months, Oklahoma already has over 90 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater (the magnitude in which most people feel earthquakes) this year. Due to the method of extracting oil in Oklahoma, it has been hypothesized that fracking may be the culprit []. Looking nationwide, there were 855 magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes from 1973 to 2008, which spiked to 2,310 from 2009 to January 2016, which is about three times the amount of earthquakes in only about one third of the time. All that said, there is still a possibility that Phase IV of the Keystone Pipeline System could get approved. Last month, Keystone XL owner TransCanada took the United States government to court, saying that President Obama had gone above and beyond his constitutional authority in order stop the project. For one, he may not have the power, because this decision was contrary to the expressed wishes of Congress and unsupported by any statute. Second, there currently is not direct evidence tying the completion of this specific project to a possible rise in earthquakes.


Casey, Tina. “Keystone XL Pipeline, Meet Oklahoma Earthquakes.” CleanTechnica. Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.


Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project. Washington, DC: United States Dept. of State, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, 2013. Executive Summary. Keystone Pipeline. Mar. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.


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