State Department Assessment of Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Downplays Environmental Risks

The Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL pipeline is not good news for environmental activists who oppose it.

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The U.S. State Department has released its Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL pipeline, and it's not good news for environmental activists who oppose it. It plays down the risks:

The analysis, which will inform the decision President Obama must make later this year on whether to grant TransCanada the permit to construct the pipeline connecting Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, does not give environmentalists the answer they had hoped for in the debate over the project’s climate impact. Opponents say a presidential veto of the project would send a powerful message to the world about the importance of moving away from fossil fuels and make it more difficult for Canada to export its energy-intensive oil.

But the detailed environmental report — which runs close to 2,000 pages long — also questions one of the strongest arguments for the pipeline, by suggesting America can meet its energy needs over the next decade without it. The growth in rail transport of oil from western Canada and the Bakken Formation on the Great Plains and other pipelines, the analysis says, could meet the country’s energy needs for the next decade, even if Keystone XL never gets built.

From the report:

Based on information and analysis about the North American crude transport infrastructure (particularly the proven ability of rail to transport substantial quantities of crude oil profitably under current market conditions, and to add capacity relatively rapidly) and the global crude oil market, the draft Supplemental EIS concludes that approval or denial of the proposed Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.

Once the Draft SEIS is noticed in the Federal Register, a 45-day comment period will begin:

Members of the public, public agencies and other interested parties can submit comments, questions and concerns about the project via email to [email protected], at //www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov or mailed to:

U.S. Department of State
Attn: Genevieve Walker, NEPA Coordinator
2201 C Street NW, Room 2726
Washington, D.C. 20520

After the end of the public comment period, the Department will prepare a Final SEIS. A decision from President Barack Obama on the pipeline is not expected until mid-summer.