The only “blow to the Keystone pipeline” is in the exaggerated reporting of the science…
The “report” (Kurek et al., 2013) did find slight elevations (relative to 1950) of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in five lakes in the vicinity of the Fort McMurray, near oil sand mining and upgrading operations in NE Alberta. The PAH flux trends in four of the lakes were unremarkable compared to the control (Namur Lake). One lake (NE20) exhibited PAH levels similar to urban and agricultural areas. The other four lakes were very similar to remote lakes in the Canadian Rockies and boreal forests.
This is Figure 1 from Kurek et al., 2013…
The lakes around Fort McMurray clearly do exhibit some increase in PAH flux since 1950. The winds in the area are generally southerly. So, it makes sense that SW22 and SE22 exhibit the least increase in PAH flux; while NE13 and NE20 exhibit the greatest increase. However, apart from NE20, the PAH fluxes aren’t remarkable when compared to Lake Namur. There does seem to be some evidence of minor wind-driven pollution in the lakes to the north of site AR6.
The supplemental information included a comparison table of PAH levels in the study area and in distant urban and remote settings. I transcribed those data to Excel in order to put the oil sands pollution into perspective.
Three of the four oil sands sites had lower PAH concentrations than Namur Lake. Only one of the sites (NE20) was comparable to lakes in urban and agriculturally developed areas.
I noticed that two of the remote, boreal forest sites (PAD 18) had maximum PAH fluxes in 1758 and 1810. So I plotted the PAH concentrations and fluxes against the year in which the maximum flux occurred.
This clearly demonstrates that the PAH “pollution” associated with oil sands development is insignificant. The PAH concentrations in most of lakes in the study area are unremarkable when compared to remote lakes in the boreal forest in the 18th and 19th century and are more similar to modern remote lakes than they are to urban and agriculturally developed areas.
Joshua Kurek, Jane L. Kirk, Derek C. G. Muir, Xiaowa Wang, Marlene S. Evans, and John P. Smol. Legacy of a half century of Athabasca oil sands development recorded by lake ecosystems. PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print January 7, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1217675110