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Published on February 1st, 2014 | by Tina Casey


State Department Keystone XL Pipeline Report [Update 2]

February 1st, 2014 by  

Wow, talk about your Friday afternoon news dump. Out comes the long awaited State Department Keystone XL Pipeline report just in time to kick off Super Bowl weekend, buried among no less than nine other State Department press releases on various other random topics including the attention-getting news that former New York City Mayor and sustainability superfan Michael Bloomberg has been named the US Special Envoy to the United Nations for Climate Change and Cities.

[Update 1. February 2, 2014: As we were just saying…our friends over at The Hill report on the following email claryifying next steps in the Keystone XL Pipeline review process from a White House spokesperson:

The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) includes a range of estimates of the project’s climate impacts, and that information will now need to be closely evaluated by Secretary Kerry and other relevant agency heads in the weeks ahead…A decision on whether the project is in the national interest will be made only after careful consideration of the SEIS and other pertinent information, comments from the public, and views of other agency heads.

Update 2. February 2, 2014 4:37 EST: Read Tom Steyer’s letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

And now back to our original report…]

Jeeze, what else could they pile on to bury this thing? Oh right, they could arrange for Justin Bieber to land his private jet in New Jersey almost to the hour when completion of the report was announced, only to be detained when sharp-nosed officials detected the tell-tale scent of weed on board.

Okay, so that last item might have been just a coincidence. The important thing is that the State Department Keystone XL report is finally signed, sealed, and delivered, and we’re starting to hear some loud cheering from the pro-pipeline side of the field.

State Department Keystone XL Pipeline report

Cheerleaders (cropped) by Erik Daniel Drost.

The State Department Keystone XL Pipeline Report

We’re going to get into the details over the weekend, but for now let’s get to the real meat: does this bring the pipeline any closer to approval?

Superficially it does, but only in the sense that it accomplishes a mandatory task. Whether that task has any meaning remains to be seen.

That’s why we’re not going to say the pipeline “cleared a hurdle.” The State Department had to finish the Keystone XL report sooner or later and after all, the main takeaway from the report [formally, the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)] is that the project would not significantly add to global greenhouse gas emissions, which is what you could say about any other individual fossil fuel project on the planet.

If you’ve ever played Parcheesi (or The Game of Life, for that matter), you know that getting to move your piece a little farther along the game board doesn’t help much when the dice don’t roll your way. In the pipeline’s case, it’s not even a matter of luck. A major obstacle is built in to the process, which the State Department clearly enunciates in announcing the report:

The Presidential Permit review process now focuses on whether the proposed Project serves the national interest, which involves consideration of many factors: including, energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy; and compliance with relevant federal regulations and issues. During this time, the Department will consult with, at least, the eight agencies identified in Executive Order 13337: the Departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

If you recall, EPA issued a vicious (well, politely vicious) critique of an initial version of the report last year, and the Interior Department had some pithy comments on the subject, too.

Now mix in the mandatory public comment period which is bound to be interesting, the appointment of Bloomberg as green envoy to the UN, the appointment of rival green superfan and known pipeline foe John Podesta as White House counselor, ample (maybe a little too ample) petroleum and natural gas production in the US, the stratospheric growth of solar and wind power in the US, and mounting evidence that the this country cannot sustain the risk to internal waterways posed by the transportation and storage of fossil fuels and related chemicals, as evidenced by the ongoing Kalamazoo River dilbit pipeline disaster, the Pegasus Pipeline dilbit spill in Arkansas, and the recent West Virginia chemical spill.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention that the Secretary of State himself, John Kerry, has a stellar, longrunning environmental advocacy track record.

Then there’s that nasty little tars sands oil related petcoke problem, which has been besetting the already-beleaguered city of Detroit, an issue so compelling that even a local affiliate of Fox News has been covering it (for the record, Fox has been a little less than enthusiastic on the subject, see here and here, though evidently in support of US oil and gas interests).

Anyways, as we see it, a bit too early to break out the pom-poms unless you plan on doing some Super Bowl related cheering this weekend.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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