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Keystone Pipeline Suit Shifts Towards Local Efforts and New Refineries

Washington, D.C. (September 23, 2008) – A lawsuit against the State Department over the environmental impacts of a proposed tar sand oil pipeline was modified in court filings this week as a pair of the original plaintiffs step away from the case. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) amended its complaint in the case, which challenges the validity of the legally-required environmental impact statement for the Keystone Pipeline.

The Keystone Pipeline would transport crude oil extracted from Canadian tar sands to the United States.  The pipeline, a joint venture between TransCanada and ConocoPhillips, would pump approximately a half-million barrels per day of heavy sour crude oil into the US for refining. The lawsuit contends that the State Department’s environmental impact virtually ignored the devastating impacts of refining and extracting tar sands oil.  The extraction and refining of tar sands produces more climate-changing emissions than conventional crude oil, uses and pollutes an intense amount of water, and turns pristine forests into wastelands in Canada. More information on the dangers of tar sands and other dirty fuels can be found at: http://www.NRDC.org/dirtyfuels

Two of the original plaintiffs are withdrawing from the suit, but will look for opportunities locally. Though Dakota Rural Action and the Dakota Resource Council (represented by Iowa public interest law center Plains Justice and NRDC) continue to support the legal effort and the case’s focus on the air, water and greenhouse gas pollution at the ends of the pipeline, the two groups will concentrate on environmental impacts in the path of the pipeline through the Dakotas.
The amended complaint also includes a new example of a U.S. refinery, the ConocoPhillips refinery in Borger, Texas, that is likely to receive tar sands oil from the Keystone pipeline but was not included in the impact statement.
Comments from the groups involved follow:

Jacob Limmer, Dakota Rural Action Chairperson
“Dakota Rural Action got involved in this lawsuit due to our concerns for the landowners directly impacted by the Keystone Pipeline, neighbors to the route and communities along the route.  Since then the lawsuit has gone in a different direction and our concerns are no longer key to the suit.  We will continue to organize and work through other means on this issue.”

Roger Brenna, Dakota Resource Council Board Chairman
“We remain surprised that that the federal government would ignore the environmental impacts at both ends of this pipeline. That is a fight that is necessary and important. But our group needs to keep the focus local by closely monitoring the pipeline construction which has already begun. We continue to evaluate strategies to protect the people of North Dakota from the impact of tar sands and pipelines in their backyards and near their water supplies.

Carrie La Seur, Plains Justice
"Our clients in the Dakotas fear that the waiver of pipeline safety standards for Keystone is just another step in the process of turning our region into a national energy sacrifice zone where our health and quality of life are less important than feeding the fossil fuel beast."

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC
“This project doesn’t create a benign tube between the States and Canada. It deepens dangerous tar sands oil pollution that will accelerate climate change with environmentally-destructive actions at either end of the pipeline. We need to address this issue head on; both in the courts and in the communities most affected by the pipeline. We will handle the courts so that Dakota Resource Council and Dakota Rural Action can concentrate their efforts on the pipeline’s local impacts in the Dakotas.”
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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


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