The State Department’s comment period for the Keystone XL pipeline closed on Monday after the American public provided the agency more than a million comments critiquing its review and voicing concerns about the significant environmental impacts of the controversial project. The Natural Resources Defense Council, along with fifteen other environmental and public interest organizations, also submitted an in-depth critique of State’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). In its comments, the environmental community critiqued State’s review, showing that contrary to State’s assessment, Keystone XL is a linchpin for increased tar sands production and the climate emissions associated with it, there are significant risks associated with tar sands pipeline spills associated with the project, and increased toxic emissions coming from refining tar sands in the Gulf would adversely impact low-income communities in the region.
The Environmental Protection Agency provided a similar set of comments, calling the State’s environmental review ‘insufficient’ and giving the proposed Keystone XL an “Environmental Objections” rating – a technical term meaning that the project would have significant environmental impacts. The importance this rating cannot be overstated – EPA’s stance rating of environmental reviews offers the most compelling expert opinion of whether the process was done well and its conclusions were sound. Moreover, the Administration’s EO rating for Keystone XL is in stark contrast to State’s – only about 5% of draft environmental reviews get ratings of EO or worse, indicating that the project will have significant environmental impacts. My colleague Elizabeth Shope provides more details on EPA's finding.
(Tar sands mine in Alberta credit: Peter Essick/National Geographic)
There is only one course left to the State Department - to go back to the drawing board and assess the significant impacts that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have on the climate and America’s lands, waters and communities. And then they should recommend rejecting the Keystone XL project because it will put farms, ranches and communities at risk of toxic spills and worsen climate change, jeopardizing our children’s future.