Environmental Assessment Finds Minimal Impact
The Keystone XL oil pipeline could be a step closer to getting final White House approval, based on a new government report. The State Department's Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone finds, among other things, it would have "no significant impacts to most resources along the projected route," and "no substantial change in global Greenhouse Gas emissions." The report also looked at how the pipeline would affect oil production and demand on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. "It really remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of development of the (Canadian) oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil in the U.S.," says Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones.
The results appear encouraging for supporters of the pipeline project, but Jones cautions that the report is only a review, and not a ruling on the project. "I think it's premature at this point to try to come down with strong conclusions, as we want to make sure we get a lot of comments on this and we have a full public debate," she says. Indeed, there is a 45-day public comment period underway now. Jones explains what happens after that. "We will produce a final supplemental environmental impact statement, and when that final is released we plan to begin what we call the national interest determination." That "national interest" determination could be the key factor in deciding if President Obama signs off on the project.
The Keystone XL is designed to carry oil an estimated 1,700 miles from the Canadian oil sands down to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The southern portion of the pipeline, between Oklahoma and Texas, is already under construction. But because the northern portion crosses an international border, it requires the approval of the State Department and, ultimately, the President. For now, the company behind the Keystone XL, TransCanada, is still waiting. TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling calls the new report "an important step towards receiving a Presidential Permit for this critical energy infrastructure project." Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is more direct in his response to the report. "There is no reason for the President to delay this job-creation project any further," says Cornyn.