Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Agencies Differ on Tar Sands Pipeline

Agencies Differ on Oil Sands Pipeline
July 21, 2010, 10:03 am


As we’ve reported, the State Department is considering whether to approve a huge new pipeline called Keystone XL that will bring crude from Canada’s oil sands all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

A new pipeline would vastly expand the amount of oil extracted from Canadian oil sands that is used in the United States – which could be good in terms of energy security.

But environmental groups contend that this oil comes with an unacceptable array of environmental problems, from a relatively heavy production of greenhouse gas emissions to destruction of northern, or boreal, forests.

In a letter to the State Department dated Friday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency for the first time officially weighed in on the decision, describing the State Department’s draft environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL project as inadequate.

It said the government had far more research to conduct and information to collect before it could consider the pipeline proposal.

Among the items agency said it found deficient in the draft environmental impact statement were the discussion of potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project, pipeline safety and spill-response planning, as well as the impact on indigenous Canadian communities.

Although the State Department has final say on whether to authorize transboundary pipelines, the E.P.A. gets to comment as a cooperating agency, and its comments will presumably be taken seriously. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to pass judgment on the pipeline this fall, but the reservations expressed by the environmental agency could change that timetable.

Alex Moore of the Washington office of Friends of the Earth said in an e-mail message that the recommendations might ultimately delay the permit process for the pipeline, “as the State Department cannot legally proceed until it has provided the E.P.A. with the information requested.”


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