Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline: State Department Papers Over Climate Issues

WASHINGTON (March 1, 2013) – The U.S. State Department today released a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline proposed to pass through the United States from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Natural Resources Defense Council experts have begun analyzing the draft review and have found numerous major flaws, including:

Climate Impacts:  The analysis minimizes the climate impacts of up to 830,000 barrels per day of tar sands—which has been termed “the dirtiest oil on the planet” due to its high-carbon liabilities. Building this pipeline would be the same as putting 6 million new cars on the road. And that doesn’t even account for emissions that come from petroleum coke, which would increase carbon pollution from Keystone XL by an additional 13 percent. But the draft SEIS discounted this carbon pollution. NRDC’s analysis of the climate impacts can be found here.   

Tar Sands Development: The State Department analysis specifically avoids the impact that this project would have in empowering a tripling of tar sands oil production by noting that the oil would be delivered in other ways, despite very clear evidence and press reporting in Canada to the contrary. NRDC’s brief on this issue is available here. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers agrees in this document.

Water Impacts: In a significant change from the first environmental impact study, the State Department now acknowledges that the acidic and corrosive properties of diluted bitumen (a rawer form of tar sands oil that would flow through the pipeline) has elevated safety risks compared to conventional oil, and requires new response strategies to deal with spills in water. The ongoing cleanup of the nation’s biggest inland oil spill two and a half years ago—in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River — illustrates the danger underplayed in today’s draft report. NRDC’s analysis of pipeline safety issues can be found here.

In response to the draft review, NRDC Canada Project Director Danielle Droitsch issued this statement:

“The State Department is trying to duck the significant climate implications of this project, in direct contradiction to President Obama’s calls for climate action to protect our future. The State Department has done him a disservice by papering over those important issues.

“As the nation grapples with the climate hole we are stuck in, we must stop digging. Keystone XL is a steam shovel. We intend to make that clear to the State Department and President Obama during the upcoming public comment period. Keystone XL is bad for the climate and it should be denied.”

For more of her analysis, see this blog.

For additional information, see this blog by NRDC International Program Director Susan Casey-Lefkowitz:

Video of people impacted by the pipeline and tar sands production can be found at: