State Dept: No big concerns with Keystone XL lineBut environmental report stops short of endorsing controversial oil pipeline.
By: Dina Cappiello , The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday raised no major objections to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and said other options to get the oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries are worse for climate change.
But the latest environmental review stops short of recommending whether the project should be approved. State Department approval of the 1,700-mile pipeline is needed because it crosses a U.S. border.
The lengthy report says Canadian tar sands are likely to be developed, regardless of whether the U.S. approves Keystone XL, which would carry oil from western Canada to refineries in Texas. The pipeline would also travel through Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The report acknowledges that development of tar sands in Alberta would create greenhouse gases but makes clear that other methods to transport the oil — including rail, trucks and barges — also pose a risk to the environment.
The State Department analysis for the first time evaluated two options using rail: shipping the oil on trains to existing pipelines or to oil tankers. The report shows that those other methods would release more greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming than the pipeline.
The Keystone XL pipeline, according to the report, would release annually the same amount of global warming pollution as 626,000 passenger cars.
A scenario that would move the oil on trains to mostly existing pipelines would release 8 percent more greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide than Keystone XL. That scenario would not require State Department approval because any new pipelines would not cross the U.S border.
Another alternative that relies mostly on rail to move the oil to the Canadian west coast, where it would be loaded onto oil tankers to the U.S. Gulf Coast, would result in 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.
In both alternatives, the oil would be shipped in rail cars as bitumen, a thick, tar-like substance, rather than as a liquid.
The State Department was required to conduct a new environmental analysis after the pipeline’s operator, Calgary-based TransCanada, changed the project’s route though Nebraska. The Obama administration blocked the project last year because of concerns that the original route would have jeopardized environmentally sensitive land in the Sand Hills region.
The administration later approved a southern section of the pipeline, from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas coast, as part of what President Barack Obama has called an “all of the above” energy policy that embraces a wide range of sources, from oil and gas to renewables such as wind and solar.
The pipeline plan has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate over climate change. Republicans and business and labor groups have urged the Obama administration to approve the pipeline as a source of much-needed jobs and a step toward North American energy independence.
Environmental groups have been pressuring the president to reject the pipeline, saying it would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming. They also worry about a spill.