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'Pipe Dreams' Documentary Examines Keystone Pipeline Debate

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 10/13/11 03:59 PM ET Updated: 12/13/11 05:12 AM ET

What will the proposed Keystone XL pipeline mean for Americans?

Documentary filmmaker Leslie Iwerks attempts to answer that question in her new documentary "Pipe Dreams." The film, which will be shown in states along the proposed pipeline corridor, traces the history and motivations behind the pipeline and examines its projected impact.

Interviewing government officials, landowners and environmentalists, Iwerks examines the Keystone debate: The potential for American economic growth and jobs versus the potential for environmental disaster.

At the heart of the pipeline opposition is concern for the Ogallala Aquifer, an important water source over which the pipeline would cross. Iwerks interviews a number of farmers and ranchers in Nebraska whose livelihoods depend upon clean water from the aquifer.

Looking at past leaks on the Keystone pipeline, critics likes Iwerks and some of these landowners believe the dangers of the Keystone XL extension are underestimated.

Iwerks told HuffPost, "when I spoke with many landowners that once supported [the pipeline] and did eventually sign their easement rights, they were unaware of so many legalities and personal ramifications that became clearer once the opposition gained momentum. They said if they knew then what they know now, they never would have signed."

In May, a pumping station on the existing section of the Keystone pipeline in North Dakota sprung a small leak. According to the film, the Department of Transportation determined that it was rancher Bob Banderet who discovered the leak and not any of oil company TransCanada's failsafe systems.

A former inspector for the Keystone pipeline told HuffPost last month that this and other leaks can be traced to construction shortcuts. He said he has "no faith" that TransCanada can build the pipeline properly.

A study by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineering professor found that "the worst-case spill scenarios contemplated by TransCanada ... are grossly underestimated -- and that hundreds of rivers, streams and aquifers are vulnerable to toxic oil contamination," reported HuffPost's Tom Zeller.

Last week, the State Department held its final public hearing on the pipeline, with over 45 pipeline opponents testifying. The Obama administration will make a decision later this year on whether to allow the Keystone XL to be built.

Iwerks said she thinks the pipeline's opponents "are winning in their battle to expose the issues, but whether the State Department chooses to listen and change America’s energy course is another matter." She believes, "lobbyists for TransCanada have done everything in their power and pocketbooks to work the system long and hard."

For more information about the "Pipe Dreams" documentary, visit pipedreamsdoc.com.

WATCH the film trailer:

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