Secretary Kerry has all the information necessary to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Kerry on Climate.png

The State Department now has all the information it needs to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. NRDC has released a backgrounder that presents an overview of a compelling body of evidence that makes it clear that this project is not in the United State’s national interest. Keystone XL would significantly add to the carbon pollution that’s driving climate change, undermine the nation’s climate leadership and imperil the health and drinking water of millions of Americans. The proposed tar sands pipeline is a long term piece of high carbon infrastructure that simply doesn’t fit in a world which is committed to stabilize climate change at 2 degrees Celsius. Secretary Kerry can’t find Keystone XL in the national interest until a route through Nebraska has been determined and evaluated and the impact of that route on communities and resources can be evaluated.  But he has already has all the information he needs to reject Keystone XL on climate and other grounds. By rejecting Keystone XL, Secretary Kerry has an opportunity to build on his exemplary record on climate and signal to the world that the United Statesis serious about tackling climate change. 

"Climate change has special significance for the work we do here at State, and so do clean water, clean air, sustainability, and energy.  We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity.  We need to elevate the environment in everything we do." Secretary Kerry, Policy Guidance to the Department of State, March 7, 2014

Here is a short overview of some of the reasons to find that Keystone XL is not in the nation’s interest:

  • Keystone XL is not in the national interest because it would lock in high-carbon infrastructure and enable significant additional global carbon emissions. Keystone XL is a driver for tar sands expansion that simply would not happen without the project. Industry has been clear that Keystone XL is critical in driving its plans to triple tar sands tar sands expansion by 2030. The additional, or incremental, emissions from the more carbon intensive tar sands crude in Keystone XL is the equivalent of the emissions of 5.7 million passenger vehicles and would generate up to $128 billion in climate related costs over the pipelines projected lifespan, according to the Administration’s own social costs of carbon estimates.
  • Keystone XL is not in the national interest because it would undermine U.S. climate objectives and leadership. Keystone XL is wholly inconsistent with a scenario where the international community limits warming to 2 degrees Celsius. In IEA forecasts meeting that goal is dependent on significantly reduced U.S. and global oil consumption through 2035. The U.S. must be consistent in its call to reduce significant new sources of carbon.  Rejecting Keystone XL is consistent with other policies in the President’s Climate Action Plan, such as ending financial support for new overseas coal power plants. Moreover, U.S. climate leadership and credibility in negotiating robust international climate commitments depends on taking actions at home that are consistent with what the U.S. is asking other countries to do.  Rejecting Keystone XL will show the international community that the U.S. is forgoing infrastructure for large new sources of carbon.
  • Keystone XL is not in the national interest because it is inconsistent with State’s recent policy guidance on climate. Rejecting Keystone XL would allow the State to elevate climate and lead by example through strong action at home in accordance with the Department’s policy on climate.
  • Keystone XL is not in the national interest because the pipeline would further undermine Canada’s capacity to make and honor future emissions reductions. Extraction of tar sands oil is Canada’s largest growing source of emissions and the most significant barrier to meeting its international target.
  • Keystone XL’s cannot be determined to be in the national interest as there is currently no agreed route through Nebraska that can be evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act.  The available evidence provides the State Department with a strong basis to reject however it cannot be approved until its route is known and its impact to the communities and resources along that route can be evaluated.
  • Keystone XL is not in the national interest because a mounting and scientifically recognized body of research shows that the health impacts of tar sands are considerably worse than conventional crude oil. Both State and the EPA have concluded that tar sands spills are significantly more damaging than conventional spills and more difficult and costly to clean up – it presents unique risks in water bodies and does not readily biodegrade. That is bad news for the millions of Americans relying on the water resources from hundreds of rivers and major aquifers along the pipeline’s route.
  • Keystone XL is not in the national interest because its leak detection technology allows potentially catastrophic spills to go undetected. The FSEIS found that the pipeline’s leak detection system is unlikely to identify leaks smaller than half a million gallons a day – putting frontline communities in the role of first responders.
  • Keystone XL is not in the national interest because it is a pipeline through the United State to export refineries. Over half of the crude from Keystone XL is forecast to be exported internationally after it is refined. Moreover, Keystone XL is not necessary to transport domestic crude; in fact, domestic crude oil producers in North Dakota have turned down several new pipeline applications while rail and pipeline capacity out of the state exceeds production by over one million bpd.
  • Keystone XL is not in the national interest because it would not further significant national employment growth. According to the FSEIS, Keystone XL would only create 1,950 construction jobs over two years and 50 permanent jobs

Keystone XL represents a huge step backward for our country. President and Secretary Kerry have more than enough information to reject the Keystone XL pipeline as a project that is incompatible with the nation’s climate goals, a risk to our waters, and a threat to our communities.

Photo: Secretary: Kerry discusses the threat of climate in Jakarta, Indonesia, Department of State

About the Authors

Anthony Swift

Director, Canada Project, International program

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