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5 Cringeworthy Answers From The State Department’s Keystone XL Report

The State Department couldn't answer all of the questions and comments, so questions were given “themed” answers, which resulted in many questions getting inadequate answers, and some not at all.

The U.S. section of the Keystone XL pipeline is already being constructed.
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It’s one of the largest in-progress infrastructure proposals in the country, crossing one of the world’s largest aquifers, transporting one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels on the planet.

Considering the massive scope of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, it is no wonder the State Department’s recently-released final environmental impact statement for the pipeline is equally massive. In addition to addressing issues such as climate change, economic need, wildlife impacts, socioecomonics, air quality, noise, and the potential of a spill, the State Department received and answered more than 1.5 million comments on the proposed pipeline, the entirety of which it attempted to answer. Though 99 percent of those comments were duplicates of letters from advocacy organizations, one percent — nearly 17,000 — were deemed “unique” submissions. The majority, or 57 percent of the unique submissions, opposed the project, while 43 percent supported it.

Because the State Department could not answer all of the questions and comments, questions were given “themed” answers, which resulted in many questions getting inadequate answers, and some not at all. The most cringeworthy moments from the comment-and-response section are listed here.

What’s In The Pipeline Anyway?

Issue at hand: If the pipeline is approved, a substance called diluted bitumen (dilbit) would be added to the thick tar sands oil to make it flow more easily through the pipeline. Dilbit is not the same as normal crude oil, and the safety of this product and the chemicals used to make it are of concern — particularly that it may be more corrosive, impacting pipeline integrity. Some commenters wanted details on the chemical makeup of the dilbit, safety procedures to maintain pipeline integrity, and emergency response plans to clean up spills of dilbit.

Comment submitted by TetherowJ: “How can you approve a pipeline for a substance you aren’t told the composition of If [a leak] happens in the aquifer, how will the added chemicals behave? YOU DON’T KNOW!”

Answer: “Due to shipper confidentiality issues, the exact composition of the dilbit blends are not publicly available. Although the Department is unable to supply every Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of the crude oil that would be transported by the proposed Project, Appendix Q, Crude Oil Material Safety Data Sheets, contains MSDSs that identify the chemical composition and maximum volumes of chemicals that could be present in the dilbit and Bakken crude in the event of a release. These MSDSs do not represent an actual dilbit blend that would be transported by the proposed project, but could be useful to emergency responders for planning purposes.”

Translation: The State Department is not disclosing what’s in the dilbit, and not planning on telling emergency response teams either.

What About The Native American Tribes?

Issue at hand: The proposed route of Keystone XL would cross the lands of multiple different Native American tribes, who have raised concerns that their voices are not being heard in the approval process. Members from the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation, along with tribal members and tribes in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, have been trying to fight construction.

Comment submitted by The Yankton Sioux Tribe and Ihanktonwan Oyate: [Our ancestors] would not have signed [The 1863 Peace Treaties] if the ancestors had known the United States would consistently violate them up to even today. … Indigenous Nations have not been properly involved in the review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline as a whole and have been forced to participate in a fragmented divisive process, which does not allow tribes to share information with each other in a cooperative manner even though the lands on which Indigenous Nations’ sacred, cultural, and historic sites are found often overlap.

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