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XL Letter: Thirty local and national groups ask Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard Americans from risks of proposed tar sands oil pipeline

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2011) -- Today more than thirty local and national environmental and landowner groups sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Jackson raising concerns about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and asking for her "continued vigilance in protecting the American public and our environment from the significant risks posed by this massive dirty fuels pipeline proposal."  The letter comes one day after a hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power discussed a draft of the "North American-Made Energy Security Act," which is a proposal to fast-track the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

In July 2010, EPA gave the tar sands pipeline draft environmental review the lowest possible ranking, rating it "inadequate."  In April 2011, the State Department issued a supplemental draft environmental review that EPA has yet to comment on.  The letter asks EPA to ensure this round of environmental review includes full information on issues such as pipeline safety, alternatives to the current route through the Ogallala Aquifer, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental justice impacts from increased refinery pollution resulting from the project's deliveries. In addition, the groups are asking for hearings along the route to help farmers and landowners make their views known.

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would bisect the American heartland, travelling nearly 2000 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to the refinery communities of Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. It would carry up to 900,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen -- a form of raw tar sands oil which steamed and strip-mined in Canada's Boreal forest.

Following is a statement from Liz Barratt-Brown, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council:

"The State Department's second round of environmental review for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is as deeply flawed as the first. It does not answer the critical questions that EPA and the public called for and we hope that the EPA will push back once again.

The updated review still avoids the biggest questions about the tar sands pipeline project brought up previously by the EPA. Issues of the pipeline's safety, its impact on land and water resources from Canada to the Gulf, and the huge increase in pollution from extracting and refining this oil are still left largely unanswered.

The environmental review is being rushed to meet a deadline that is in the interest of the pipeline company, not the American public.  We've seen the result of unsafe oil infrastructure -- in the gulf of Mexico, in Michigan's Kalamazoo River and most recently in Alberta and South Dakota.  Now is the time to ask the hard questions -- before it is too late."

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 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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