Keystone XL Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement released

The US Department of State issued an environmental impact assessment on the Keystone XL pipeline last week. The assessment includes a comprehensive review of the revised route including an environmental impacts analysis. The White House does not have a deadline to approve or deny the permit and is waiting for Secretary of State John Kerry to provide an official recommendation. The New York Times published a summary of the new report Friday.

The initial pipeline route ran from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico. The revised route was shortened after the 2008 proposal to avoid sensitive areas like the Sand Hills region of Nebraska. The new proposed route starts in Morgan, Montana and ends in Steele, Nebraska. The southern section, from Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico was considered by Keystone to be a separate project (not requiring Presidential approval) and withdrew it from the permit application a few years ago. The southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline recently completed construction and early this year began delivering crude oil to the gulf.

The latest report contains the most recent information on the Keystone XL pipeline project including specific responses to a number of concerns raised by the public.

• Expanded analysis of potential oil releases
• Expanded climate change analysis
• Updated oil market analysis incorporating new economic modeling
• Expanded analysis of rail transport as part of the No Action Alternative scenarios

The environmental impact statement estimates the project will contribute to global greenhouse gases and produce both short and long term negative impacts or risks for water resources, wildlife, groundwater, wetlands, threatened and endangered species, and vegetation. However, the report deems all of the potential environmental impacts as negligible, temporary, or limited cumulatively given the fact that the project proposal includes mitigation measures to be implemented by Keystone.

Environmentalists argue that further contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are intolerable given the critical levels already reached, as this NASA gif illustrates. But existing market demand is fueling the pipeline project. Furthermore, the report indicates that whether or not the XL pipeline is approved, Canadian crude oil will be extracted and transported across the United States to Gulf Coast refineries. The report details potential alternatives, which include other routes for the pipeline as well as rail transport options.

What do you think: Will the environment be better off if the crude is transported by rail or by pipeline?

environmental dataCarissa Ries

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3 Responses to Keystone XL Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement released

  1. Al Good says:

    Pipeline is probably not as bad as rail, but over time, there will be spills either way. The environmental impact of “building” the pipeline is probably acceptable, and pipeline construction will create lots of short-term jobs. The more salient issue is the environmental impact of extracting, refining, and burning of the tar sands.
    Because Keystone will likely extract and sell the oil sands somewhere (e.g., China) even if the pipeline is not routed to Texas refineries, the environmental cost (including greenhouse gas emission) of extraction, shipping, and burning will remain even if the U.S. does not participate.
    That said, I believe that the U.S. should not support projects that will have such severe long-term environmental impact. We should lead the world in developing and implementing sustainable energy resources.

  2. Here is the link to an article I wrote on this subject that was published in the Winnipeg Free Press.

  3. Carissa Ries says:

    Al- thanks for the comment, the environmental movement sings the same hymn.

    Jim- thanks for sharing your link.

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