New Environmental Review for Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Makes Sense

On November 10, 2011, the State Department announced that it will undertake a new environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This review is to be undertaken in response to the legitimate concerns raised about impacts to the Nebraska Sandhills from the proposed pipeline route. The review will also include other environmental concerns including climate change. The review is expected to take until early 2013 and has been endorsed by President Obama.

The Administration made the right choice to carry out this new review. A critical part of the environmental review process and of the national interest determination process for international pipeline projects is to listen to the concerns of the American people and make sure they are taken into account.

The decision is based on public concerns and not on politics. People from all walks of life across the United States have called for more information in the review of this pipeline – on alternate routes, on climate change and on other environmental concerns. The Executive Order 13337 that sets up permits for international pipelines requires that a need to review additional information halts the national interest determination process until that information is collected.

Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones: “This is not a political decision. We have been – in this national interest determination – out there as listening to what the public has to say, and this message about the Sand Hills of Nebraska has been coming strong and increasing intensity over the discussion we’ve been having since the end of August, when we released the Final Environmental Impact Statement.” November 10, 2011


A new review comes in answer to the many concerns about threats to people, farms, rivers and aquifers along the pipeline path. Nebraskans, Montanans, South Dakotans, Texans and people all along the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route have been raising concerns about how an oil spill would hurt their farms, families and water. The State Department held public meetings in every state along the pipeline route and this new review is in direct response to the concerns raised at those meetings.

Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE): The State Department should “immediately acknowledge that the current route is no longer being considered.” November 10, 2011


The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will not help with long-term jobs, will not replace Middle East oil and is not good for our pocketbooks. According to the Cornell Global Labor Institute, the construction of Keystone XL will create far fewer jobs in the United States than its proponents have claimed and may actually destroy more jobs than it generates. Statements by Gulf Coast refiners such as Valero indicate that much of the Keystone XL tar sands oil may be turned into diesel and exported. Moreover, for the next decade this pipeline would mostly move tar sands from the U.S. Midwest, relieving the current glut in that region and causing oil prices to rise there.

Brigadier General Steven Anderson (Ret.): “This pipeline would move dirty oil from Canada to refineries in Texas and would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, and do absolutely nothing to move us off Middle East oil, to our enemies’ delight. I am hopeful that after further review, the President will officially end all plans to allow TransCanada to build this oil pipeline.” November 10, 2011


The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would take us backwards on fighting climate change even as climate changes threatens the economic well-being of Americans. Americans are feeling the impacts of climate change every day in droughts, wildfires, floods and violent storms. It hurts our homes and our communities and has cost us billions of dollars just this year according to insurer Munich Re.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA): “We can act to avoid catastrophic climate change or we can lock in a 100-year dependence on tar sands—the dirtiest, most carbon-polluting oil available—but we cannot choose both.  As the State Department further evaluates this misguided proposal, it must thoroughly and impartially address how the pipeline would exacerbate climate change, as well as other concerns.” November 10, 2011


Ultimately, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in America’s national interest and should be rejected. Not only is there no rush to build this pipeline given the current excess pipeline capacity in the United States, but as our demand for oil goes down with new fuel efficiency standards and other clean energy measures, the Keystone XL is clearly a pipeline that profits oil companies at the expense of the American people.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT): “This pollution-ridden project and its path through our country should not go forward at all.  The environmental harm and risks that are inseparable from this project far outweigh any benefits, and I hope the Administration will pull the plug on an inherently bad idea." November 10, 2011


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