Reviewing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline: The more we learn, the worse it looks

The State Department released its draft environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would take tar sands from Canada to the US Gulf Coast for export. Past reviews severely underestimated the very serious harm to our climate, health, communities and water from the Keystone XL pipeline and expansion of tar sands extraction and refining. Unfortunately, this draft review is no different. My colleague Anthony Swift has already outlined here, the five necessary ingredients for an environmental review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. As my colleague Danielle Droitsch writes here, the State Department review misses the mark on all five.

This draft environmental review fails our climate, our communities, our waters and our health. At several key moments over the past months – election night, his Inauguration Address, and the State of the Union, President Obama has responded to widespread public concerns about the need to fight climate change with strong words calling for action. Action to fight climate change must include stopping dirty projects as well as putting clean energy alternatives into place. It is time for the US to draw a line and say no to dirty energy projects starting with the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Yet, this draft review makes the same mistake as earlier reviews of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It fails to acknowledge that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will drive expansion of the tar sands. With alternative pipeline proposals to the west and east coasts stalled due to public opposition and rail such a high cost option, Keystone XL remains the gateway to the higher prices of overseas markets for expensive tar sands.  NRDC has analyzed the ways in which the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will make climate change worse.

What we already know from existing analysis is that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest. The pipeline means worsening climate change. Piping it through the US heartland would put our ranchers and farmers at risk from difficult to clean up oil spills. And sending it to the Gulf Coast only makes our country a dirty oil gateway to overseas markets. This is a project where multi-national oil companies reap in the benefits while US communities take the risks.

We’ll continue taking a hard look at this draft environmental review. And we know that the many people across the US and Canada who are concerned with tar sands expansion and the Keystone XL pipeline project will be weighing in to make their voices heard. A draft environmental review is just the first step in the process to assess this project and to determine if it is in the national interest. During the next step, the public can make its voice known. We are still far from a decision on this project and it would be premature to mistake a draft environmental review for the end of the process.

This post was updated by the author.

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