State Dept. report favors U.S.-Canada oil pipeline


WASHINGTON — The State Department today removed a major roadblock to a planned $7 billion oil pipeline from western Canada to the Texas coast in a report that says the project is unlikely to cause significant environmental problems during construction or operation.

The thousand-page report on the proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline says no significant problems have emerged since a similar report was issued last year.

Calgary-based TransCanada wants to build a massive pipeline to carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta to refineries in Texas. The pipeline, which would travel through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, would carry an estimated 700,000 barrels of oil a day, doubling the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada. Supporters say it could significantly reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

The project has become a flashpoint for environmental groups who say the pipeline would bring “dirty oil” that requires huge amounts of energy to extract and could cause an ecological disaster in case of a spill. Opponents of the pipeline have urged the Obama administration to block the project as a sign he is serious about protecting the environment.

Several hundred activists, including actress Margot Kidder and prominent scientists, have been arrested in recent days in protests outside the White House. Organizers say the protests are the largest acts of civil disobedience centered on the environment in many years.

TransCanada maintains that the project would create tens of thousands of jobs and would be built to strict environmental standards, including 57 conditions above those required by law.

For example, the company has agreed to build much of the pipeline 4 feet below ground, instead of the usual 3 feet. Depths will increase to 25 feet below ground at several hundred river crossings along the proposed route, which passes through the Ogallala Aquifer, an environmentally sensitive formation that provides groundwater to eight states in the Great Plains.

TransCanada also said it will allow an increased number of inspections and install a greater number of safety shut-off valves than usual.

The State Department report cites those conditions as among the reasons for its confidence in the project. The report endorses the current proposed route, which has drawn criticism from officials in Nebraska and other states as environmentally risky.

Kerri-Ann Jones, an assistant secretary of state, said the report was “not a rubber stamp for this project,” adding, “No decision has been made.”

The report, the third environmental analysis submitted by the State Department since last year, kicks off a 90-day review of whether the project is in the “national interest” before a final decision is issued by the end of the year.

If approved by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the pipeline could be completed in 2013. The department has authority over the project because it crosses an international boundary.

In in its analysis, the State Department dismissed concerns from environmental groups that the pipeline would increase emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Canada’s oil sands are likely to be developed with or without the pipeline, the report said, making concerns about climate change moot.

“There are alternatives to the pipeline to move that potential fuel around” to other locations, Jones said, including barges, railways and tanker ships.

The American Petroleum Institute said the report brought the pipeline one step closer to reality. Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, said the pipeline would “bring American consumers a sure and steady supply of oil from our close friend and neighbor Canada.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council said the final report still “lacks a number of in-depth safety and pollution studies.” The NRDC said the report failed to critically review pipeline safety issues, added pollution to refinery communities, alternative routes and the impact to wildlife.

“Once again, the State Department has failed to do its homework, and they’re leaving the American public to suffer the consequences,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the NRDC international program director. “It is utterly beyond me how the administration can claim the pipeline will have ‘no significant impacts’ if they haven’t bothered to do in-depth studies around the issues of contention. The public has made their concerns clear and the administration seems to have ignored them.”

Casey-Lefkowitz added the pipeline would leave a “dirty legacy that will haunt President Obama and Secretary Clinton for years to come.”

James Hansen, a NASA scientist who was an early crusader against climate change, said allowing the Keystone XL pipeline would be like accepting a dirty needle from a fellow oil addict, Canada.

“If Obama chooses the dirty needle it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing all along, with no real intention of solving the addiction,” he said.

Associated Press

15 Responses

  1. ntangle says:

    Some good comments here and I can’t think of anything to add. So I’ll just ditto Lynn’s & Adler’s comments.

  2. Chuck says:

    Many of the Houston jobs moved to Calgary are for design firms in Houston that have offices there. Those engineers are sending their money here. Those offices don’t have enough space so designs are being done all over the United States. The materials for these pipelines are coming from here. The welders, fitters, civil workers, surveyors will be staying in hotels and spending their money from Minnisota to Texas.

  3. namsmog says:

    tanksers of oil from dubious sources in Mid East, or pipeline thru USA w/oil from Canada, eh? really doesn’t make a difference on a global scale, as Mid East oil will just go elsewhere, e.g., Europe, Japan, China, India…

  4. karlsan says:

    It seems the environmentalists want us to either remain beholden to an unstable middle east or live in caves. Green energy will not be a viable replacement for petroleum products for many decades. No matter how hard these fools try to force it upon us.

  5. Lynn says:

    Bonnie – this is an underground pipeline, which requires primarily easements. The only surface rights required will be at pump stations and valve shut-offs. Landowners are paid for their easement, and once the pipeline is down, they can continue to use the surface for grazing, planting etc. The land surface is kept clear of trees, brush, etc by the pipeline company. Generally, every effort is made to avoid getting too close to buildings, ponds, waterways, etc.

    This is oil being shipped to our refineries, not high pressure gas. It’s not going to explode if ruptured. And with the extra safety features and burying it deeper than required, there is even less chance for any spills. Yes, it’s not the sweet crude that is easier to refine, but to me, heavier crude shipping from Canada is much better than lighter oil or LPG from the Middle East.

  6. Houston says:

    How is it good when they have already moved many of the Houston jobs to Calgary? This is just an eyewash that there will be more jobs created. Even if jobs are created, they will turn around and take it back to Calgary.

  7. Adler says:

    Bonnie the project hasn’t even started yet. Nobody has had anything taken from them.

    You do understand that ED is only used when somebody refuses the monetary offer and there is no alternate location for the project in the area?

    Maybe you need to calm yourself before you vaporlock.

  8. Jaxxx says:

    If the money is big enough there will be no stopping this endeavor, or in other words, if the lobbyist greases the right palm. It will be a done deal!!!

  9. Brent Jatko says:

    I am generally in favor of the proposed pipeline with one condition: that BP not be allowed within 100 miles of it.

  10. capntax says:

    Even ODumbo can’t resist this…or can he?

    I think a pile of money changes hands in Chicago soon and suddenly a deal has been made.

  11. RCR says:

    Hey, if this pipeline reduces our dependence on the ticking time bomb countries in the Middle East, they can run it through my front yard, back yard, living room, wherever they want! There’s millions of miles of pipelines criss-crossing this country, and leaks occur very rarely, and when they do, it’s usually a few gallons here or there. The facts are the facts.

  12. David says:

    Things aren’t looking so good the anti-pipeline crowd. And I really thought that a bunch of hippies protesting in front of the White House (when the president is away on vacation) would tip the scales. :)

  13. Geezer says:

    To assure our safety, I suggest the pipeline be routed across the front lawns of the governor, our senators and representatives.

  14. Bonnie says:

    Eminent domain is being used to take land from citizens for a foreign company – how is this okay ?

  15. What? says:

    And numerous jobs would be created? No way! That wouldn’t fit into this administrations plans for OUR (WE THE PEOPLE’S) future.