An Arkansas pipeline ruptured in late-March, sending thousands of barrels of heavy crude oil into a Mayflower, Ark., residential area. As cleanup continues, the future of the Keystone XL pipeline is debatable, according to a CNN report.
"We are connecting the two because this is a great example of what could happen if the Keystone XL pipeline is permitted and built," Glen Hooks, who was in Mayflower for the Sierra Club, told CNN, noting it would be transporting the same "viscous, thick, nasty stuff."
Politicians have also weighed in.
Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, told CNN that the Arkansas incident was "a troubling reminder that oil companies still have not proven that they can safely transport Canadian tar sands oil across the United States without creating risks to our citizens and our environment."
A recent report found that most Americans support Keystone, believing that it is more important to generate new sources of energy than to protect the environment. Ranchers and farmers, however, aren’t among the majority.
"We're just scared as hell," Jim Tarnick of Fullerton, Neb., who also lives and farms in the path of the proposed pipeline, told the Huffington Post. "Keystone will travel through 320 acres of my farm, and as close as 150 feet in front of my farmhouse."
Tarnick was one of several ranchers who were arrested during a January protest of the pipeline and joins other ranchers who share his opinion.
"Farmers and ranchers are a minority in the national demographic," Ben Gotschall, a rancher and one of the more outspoken activists in Nebraska added. "In D.C., localized to rural Nebraska doesn't mean much. But if you live in rural Nebraska, a localized spill is nothing short of a catastrophic, life-altering disaster."
Though a TransCanada spokesperson pointed that a “significant spill” would be unlikely, independent experts disagree. John Stansbury, a civil engineer at the University of Nebraska, has predicted nearly 91 major leaks along the Keystone XL pipeline over 50 years.