Keystone Clarified: Pipeline Process to Continue Into 2013

Despite Industry Statements, State Department Timeline Stands

WASHINGTON (November 16, 2011) –  The following is a statement from Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Director, International Program, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, regarding the State Department’s review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

"The State Department has more work to do. Last week, it said that work 'could be completed as early as the first quarter of 2013.' That's definitive. An environmental review process in Nebraska does not change the timeline. This remains a State Department decision that will move along the timeline laid out last week."

Last week, citing the need to assess pipeline route alternatives that would protect the Sand Hills area of Nebraska as well as other environmental concerns including climate change, the State Department formally deferred its decision on the Keystone XL. And earlier this week, the State of Nebraska announced an agreement with TransCanada to investigate alternative routes for the pipeline that would skirt the sensitive Ogallala Aquifer and Sand Hills region.

The U.S. State Department has the primary responsibility for evaluating whether international pipelines such as the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline are in the national interest, under the process established by former President George W. Bush in Executive Order 13337. The Nebraska and State Department processes will move in parallel, with the Obama Administration having ultimate authority on approving the pipeline permit.

In the public statement announcing the reasons for the new environmental review, the State Department noted that it must assess the new information brought forward by the thousands of people who expressed their concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline during public meetings in September and October. The new process will include a fresh environmental review followed by public comments, consultations with other relevant federal agencies and a thorough evaluation of new information and input.

That process, the State Department said, "could be completed as early as the first quarter of 2013."

Only then, the announcement states, would the State Department be in a position to move forward with the national interest determination.