The case against Keystone.
The Interior Department has joined the Environmental Protection Agency in sharply contradicting the State Department's rosy assessment of the environmental consequences of building the Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
While neither the EPA nor the Interior Department make recommendations about whether President Obama should approve the controversial project, it's increasingly clear that he should say no and make the tough, necessary decision that protects the environment and future generations of Americans.
The president should take careful note of a 12-page letter that the Interior Department submitted as part of public comment on the State Department's dubious draft environmental assessment on the 875-mile section from the Canadian border in Montana through South Dakota to a pipeline hub in Nebraska. The draft analysis, released in March, concluded that the pipeline would have short-lived effects on wildlife and only during the project's construction.
"Given that the project includes not only constructing a pipeline but also related infrastructure, access roads, and power lines and substations, impacts to wildlife are not just related to project construction. Impacts to wildlife from this infrastructure will occur throughout the life of the project (i.e. operation and maintenance phases)," the letter says.
The pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the tar sands of Alberta to pipelines in the United States and then to refineries on the Gulf Coast. From there, most of the fuel would be shipped overseas. The project cannot proceed without approval from the State Department because it crosses a U.S. border.
In its letter, the Interior Department lists numerous ways that the project would harm wildlife. They include "species displacement, increased predation rates and predator travel lanes, increased nest parasitism, vehicle collisions with wildlife ... invasive plant species, increased wildfire risk, lower wildlife density, increase in collisions with power lines and electrocutions on power poles ... and increase in poaching."
Earlier this year, the EPA submitted a critical review of the State Department's environmental assessment. The agency cited flawed assumptions, including the unfounded conclusion that "oil sands crude will find a way to market with or without" the Keystone pipeline. The EPA also said the State Department failed to take into account the full amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the project, and the risks to aquifers that underlie portions of the pipeline's proposed route.
The State Department is expected to issue its final environmental impact statement in the near future, and then the president will make a decision that will reveal how serious he is about protecting the environment and fighting climate change, which he has repeatedly declared one of humanity's most pressing dangers. The Keystone pipeline would carry some of the world's most polluting oil from Canada to Texas and along the way would threaten America's wildlife, water supplies and, eventually, the atmosphere.
The State Department should revise its assessment and acknowledge the environmental risks of the pipeline, as well as the extensive damage caused by tar sands production, and recommend that the president block the Keystone XL.