A pipeline might soon carry oil from the Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries, but it’s not the controversial Keystone XL. The Eastern Gulf Crude Access Pipeline, slated to open in 2015, could be up and running before anyone thinks to protest. It would extend 774 miles from an existing oil storage hub in Patoka, Illinois, to St. James, Louisiana, carrying up to 660,000 barrels a day—almost as much as Keystone XL. State and federal regulations have stalled the latter, but experts say that’s much less likely to happen with Eastern, which will be repurposed from an existing natural gas line. “It’s already in the ground,” says Carl Weimer, the National Pipeline Safety Trust’s executive director. “They don’t have to purchase easements or prepare an environmental impact statement, so they can easily change what’s going through the pipes.” The project is a joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas and Canada’s Enbridge, the company responsible for the 2010 oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, the largest inland accident in U.S. history. Eastern’s path cuts through national forests home to such threatened and endangered species as the Louisiana black bear, the red-cockaded woodpecker, and the gray bat. To protect wildlife and habitat, Weimer says, states should pass laws requiring greater scrutiny of spill responses.
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