Feds complete environmental review of Keystone XL pipeline

BY JAY F. MARKS jmarks@opubco.com Published: January 31, 2014
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The State Department on Friday reported no major environmental objections to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, bringing renewed calls for President Barack Obama to approve the $7 billion project.

The report stops short of recommending approval of the pipeline, but it gives the president new support if he chooses to endorse the transcontinental pipeline despite opposition from many Democrats and environmental groups.

Foes say the pipeline would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming. They also express concern about possible spills.

Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association President Chad Warmington said the report didn't provide much new information.

“The report today confirms what many of us have known all along. This delay was about politics, not about environmental concerns,” Warmington said. “It's time for the president to stop being an obstructionist and approve this vital infrastructure project.

“The impact in Oklahoma alone is almost a billion-dollar investment and potentially thousands of jobs. Get it done.”

The American Petroleum Institute expressed a similar sentiment.

“Five years, five federal reviews, dozens of public meetings, over a million comments and one conclusion — the Keystone XL pipeline is safe for the environment,” CEO Jack Gerard said. “This final review puts to rest any credible concerns about the pipeline's potential negative impact on the environment. This long-awaited project should now be swiftly approved. It's time to put thousands of Americans to work.”

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club continue to press Obama to block construction of the pipeline.

“The president has two choices before him: fighting climate disruption or promoting an energy policy that includes the expansion of dirty fossil fuels like tar sands,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. “The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fails the basic climate test, and it's not in the interest of the American people. The president should reject the tar sands pipeline once and for all.”

Continued development

Canadian oil sands likely are to be developed regardless of U.S. action on the pipeline, the State Department's report said.

The 875-mile Keystone XL pipeline would travel through the heart of the United States, carrying oil to a hub in Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude a day to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. An existing spur runs through Kansas and Oklahoma to Texas.

The report says oil derived from oil sands in Alberta generates about 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming than traditional crude. But the report makes clear that other methods of transporting oil — including rail, trucks and barges — would release more greenhouse gases than the pipeline.

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