Rail, pipeline comparisons nuanced

April 9, 2013 at 8:29 AM

WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- Comparing oil deliveries by rail with pipelines may be a complex argument, authorities say as the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline unfolds.

A U.S. State Department review of TransCanada's planned Keystone XL pipeline found few overall environmental threats from the pipeline but said rail infrastructure must be considered when weighing the pipeline's national interest.

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard told Bloomberg News that an "unintended consequence" of not building the pipeline was more oil deliveries by rail and offshore tankers.

"None of those methods of transportation are as safe as moving (oil) by pipelines," he said.

The American Association of Railroads indicates railways suffer nearly three times as many spills as pipelines, though pipeline spills are far worse in terms of volume. Rail is also quicker, but more expensive, than pipeline delivery.

AAR reported that carloads in March were down 0.5 percent to 1.1 million compared to the same time last year. The decline, however, was the lowest in more than a year.

Petroleum and petroleum product deliveries by rail were up 54.3 percent year-on-year to 19,295 carloads in March.

The State Department vets public opinion on Keystone XL next week in Nebraska.

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