On Tuesday night the House passed a bill mandating a decision on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline by November 1. This bill is unlikely to pass the Senate and become law, mostly because it would speed us towards a pipeline that could have a disastrous effect on US waters and communities.

What the public wants is better pipeline safety, not acceleration of a pipeline that would threaten the Yellowstone River, the Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer. The more the public learns, the more concerned they get. It is ironic that in the wake of the Yellowstone River oil spill and on the anniversary of the yet-to-be-cleaned up Kalamazoo River tar sands oil spill, the House would act so contrary to the public concerns about pipeline safety. In fact, to heighten the irony, on Wednesday, the House Energy Committee will discussed a draft pipeline safety bill that would require a study of the impacts of raw tar sands oil such as would be carried in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Alberta’s Minister of Energy Ronald Liepert recently visited the United States to discuss Canada’s further development of Alberta’s oil sands. Read: Burning The Sands which has an attached infographic showing just how much oil is imported from Canada to the US.

On Tuesday, over 22,000 NRDC activists wrote to their members of Congress asking them to vote ‘No’ on the bill. The National Farmers Union also wrote to Congress today on behalf of farmers, ranchers and rural communities opposing the bill and urging that no fixed deadline for making a decision be put in place. The League of Conservation Voters wrote to Congress asking for a ‘No’ vote and noting that this vote might be included in their 2011 Scorecard of environmental votes. Yesterday, the White House issued a statement opposing the bill. That’s a lot for the House to disregard as they did this evening.

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would not carry conventional oil, but raw tar sands bitumen diluted with liquid natural gas. Diluted bitumen is more corrosive and abrasive to the inside of a pipe and there is strong evidence that it is more likely to cause pipeline failures. Tar sands pipeline leaks can be more difficult to detect and once spilled raw tar sands is more difficult to clean up.

The recent spill of over 40,000 gallons of oil into the iconic Yellowstone River is unfortunately one of many recent pipeline tragedies that have left communities asking why their safety is left in the hands of oil and gas companies.

Read the rest of the article on the NRDC’s Switchboard blog where it was originally posted.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz is the Natural Resources Defense Council International Program Director. She regularly advocates against Canadian tar sands and other dirty fuels and leads other international policy work.

NRDC is the nation’s most influential environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.