September 6, 2011

In his Aug. 29 op-ed column, “Say yes to oil sands,” Robert J. Samuelson made a strong case for the proposed oil pipeline from Canada’s Alberta province to Texas. He did not mention, however, the serious problem that was noted in a small news item in the Sept. 1 Post reporting Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) urging “President Obama . . . to deny the federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry Canadian oil over the vast Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water to several states.”

This body of water underlies a 174,000-square-mile area in Nebraska, Kansas and Texas as well as areas in South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico. In addition to drinking water, the aquifer provides water for some 65 percent of all irrigated acreage in the United States.

It requires little imagination to see the damage that could result from a major oil leak over this vitally important aquifer, much of which is relatively close to the surface. An alternative, but probably more costly, pipeline route could be east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the aquifer.

William Lloyd Stearman, North Bethesda