Keystone XL prompts dueling studies

Dueling studies are emerging as decision time nears for the Keystone XL pipeline.

In one corner, a study by economist Ernie Goss, released Thursday by the Consumer Energy Alliance, predicted that the pipeline would create more than 5,000 jobs a year in Nebraska during its construction and have an overall economic impact of $1.8 billion in the state.

Meanwhile, Oil Change International released a report contending that emissions from production of crude the pipeline will carry  will be far higher than previously estimated.

TransCanada’s proposed $7 billion pipeline is designed to carry oil sands crude  from Alberta across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to Gulf Coast refineries. Opponents have said the project could contaminate groundwater reserves and threaten environmentally  sensitive areas in Nebraska and other states along its 1,700-mile path.

Construction is already under way from a pipeline hub in Cushing, Okla., to the Texas coast. Protesters have attempted to block work along that route periodically  since last summer.

But some of the biggest concerns have been in Nebraska, where worries about the pipeline’s route across the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region threatened approval. TransCanada agreed to move the pipeline.

It is now awaiting the go-ahead from Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Ultimately, the U.S. State Department will have to approve the northern stretch of the pipeline because it would  cross an international border.

The study by Goss, an economist at Creighton University, found that the project would generate $580.2 million in direct spending during the construction period in 2013-14 and an additional $570.5 million during the operational phase in 2015-2029.

He found that the construction would support an average of 5,517 direct and indirect jobs.

The study was commissioned by the Consumer Energy Alliance, which supports the pipeline.

On the other hand, pipeline opponents Thursday released “Petroleum Coke: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands,” which focuses on a byproduct of producing tar sands bitumin and said the increased use of petroleum coke will lead to more greenhouse gas emissions.

“This new research shows why the Obama administration should stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in its tracks,” Danielle Droitsch, Canada Project Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “Approving Keystone would open the gateway to dramatic new development of tar sands oil and far more harm to our climate.”

The Oil Change International report said current analyses of the impacts of tar sands don’t account for the impact of petroleum coke that will be produced by the tar sands.

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, responded quickly to the report from Oil Change International.

“After Hurricane Sandy, devastating drought, unprecedented wildfires, and the warmest year on record in the United States, we know that climate change is happening now,” he said in a statement. “We have to fight it now, and we must say no to this pollution pipeline now.”

But the American Petroleum Institute, the lead industry lobbying group, continued its defense of the project.

“Approving the pipeline is a no brainer,” said Cindy Schild, API’s refining senior manager. “It’s good for consumers, and it’s in our national interest to secure strategic oil supplies from our upper plains states and Canada that could otherwise be shipped to Asia.”