U.S. State Department: Keystone XL Will Not Harm Environment

In a new report, the U.S. State Department says building the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will not have a significant environmental impact.

U.S. State Department: Keystone XL Will Not Harm Environment
Flickr / Loozrboy

"Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution." (Via The White House)

President Obama's remarks on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project last June have just been answered by the U.S. State Department. In their environmental review of the project, the State Department found the pipeline would not have any significant impact on climate change.

The report estimates the pipeline, which will carry oil from tar sands in Canada all the way to Nebraska and eventually the Gulf Coast, will produce about 830,000 barrels of oil per day — pumping anywhere from 1.3 million to 27.4 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

So, with all that carbon going into the atmosphere, why doesn't the pipeline impact the environment? Well, according to the report, those emissions are going to happen with or without Keystone XL.

Businessweek writes, "The scientists and authors behind the [report] concluded that the tar sands will be carved out of the ground with or without the pipeline ... the report indicates the pipeline would likely reduce carbon emissions by reducing reliance on trains, trucks, and barges."

The Washington Post adds State Department models indicate the Keystone pipeline poses less of an accidental spill risk than other transportation methods. "Some of the rail routes studied by the State Department could result in three to eight times the volume of oil spilled, according to the models."

The report is being hailed as a decisive victory by proponents of the Keystone XL project, who argue the pipeline will create jobs and help America become energy-independent.

American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard said "This final review puts to rest any credible concerns about the pipeline's potential negative impact on the environment. ... It's time to put thousands of Americans to work."

And Texas Governor Rick Perry told CNBC the State Department report should provide President Obama all the evidence he needs to approve the pipeline.

"The idea that we have taken so long to make a decision that most of us knew the answers to before they went through all of this. And this has been environmentally studied to death if you will."

But environmental advocates aren't giving up the fight against the pipeline. One director with the Natural Resource Defense Council told CBC the State Department's report wrongly assumes that tar sands oil development is inevitable.

"We've had a lot of major energy efficiency improvements, overall we need less, and there's also been a huge increase in U.S. oil production. So what we're saying is we don't need this oil."

And activists still accuse the State Department of relying on biased contractors for the report. In March, Mother Jones reported one of the executives at a contractor company working on a previous report had ties to TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL proposal.

The State Department's report is now open to public comment for 30 days, and will be scrutinized by other government agencies for 90 days. After that, it's up to President Obama to either sign off on the proposal or request further study.