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Oil Spills Are Keystone XL’s Greatest Threat To Environment, Limited US State Department Report Concludes

Again, before reading this article, be sure to read yesterday’s CleanTechnica piece discussing how limited the State Department was in it evaluation of the Keystone XL.

Originally published on Reviving Gaia:


The US State Department environmental assessment has identified an oil spill as the most likely threat the Keystone XL Pipeline presents to the environment. The report relies upon a Canadian Government study for its analysis of environmental impacts North of the border. The US segment of the pipeline is expected to have CO2 emissions – from “fuel use in construction vehicles and equipment, as well as, land clearing activities including open burning, and indirectly from electricity usage” – that will be the equivalent of 300,000 cars. “Climate changes are anticipated to occur regardless of any potential effects from the proposed Project,” the report states, but it also showed there is a substantial risk of a major oil spill. There were 1,692 pipeline “incidents” in the US during the six month period they studied. (1,027 of these were from the equipment used on pipelines and 321 were directly connected to pipelines.) There have been mixed reactions to this report.

Operational and proposed route of the Keystone Pipeline System. (Data source:TransCanada) – Meclee, Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Operational and proposed route of the Keystone Pipeline System. (Data source:TransCanada) – Meclee, Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, more than half of the nation’s crude (1.8 million barrels a day) came out of the oil sands in 2012. Production is expected to increase to 5.8 b/d by 2030. 99% of this oil is currently shipped across the border and refined in the US.

Clare Demerse, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute, said, “Today’s final assessment is a clear improvement over the State Department’s March 2013 draft, which argued there was virtually no connection between pipelines and the growth in oilsands production. The final assessment is updated with stronger analysis that better reflects the environmental and market realities. The assessment now acknowledges that under some circumstances, constraints on new pipeline capacity could have ‘a substantial impact on oilsands production levels.’ In other words, building the Keystone XL pipeline could help spur increased oilsands production and the carbon pollution that goes with it.”

“It is clear that current capacity to move raw, unprocessed bitumen out of Canada is hampered by relying solely on rail,”  said Elizabeth May, the Leader of Canada’s Green Party and MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands. “Any new pipeline will create expanded oil sands operations, and with them increased greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Pembina Institute has identified “pollution from the oilsands as the single largest barrier to achieving Canada’s national 2020 climate target.”

Elizabeth May wants to see the bitumen refined in Canada and is urging President Obama to say no to Keystone.

keystone pipeline construction

Truck hauling 36-inch Pipe to build Keystone-Cushing Pipeline SE of Peabody, Kansas – Steve Meirowsky, Flickr and Wikipedia

The next step, in the State Department’s process, is a 90-day “national interest determination” by the State Department, during which relevant federal agencies will provide their input. Then the State Department will give their recommendation to President Obama for final approval.

The US environmental community is asking Americans to voice their opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Friends of the Earth is partnering with CREDO, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, and to hold vigils around the nation this Monday evening including at the White House and the State Department. Click to find a vigil near you.

Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued a statement saying, “The State Department just released its final environmental impact report on the project — and despite the spin from the oil industry, it shows our voices have made a difference. Don’t believe the media hype: with your help, we can defeat Keystone XL once and for all.”

“President Obama vowed to reject the pipeline if the project would ‘significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.’ The verdict is in: Keystone XL fails President Obama’s climate test. Evidence from the scientific community, industry analysts, and the EPA had already shown that Keystone XL would increase carbon pollution from the tar sands, and today the State Department backed away from its previous claim that the pipeline won’t have a significant impact.”

The Sierra Club has started an online petition, which you can sign here.

Friends of the Earth have another petition and also a Facebook page (Click here)

(Photo at top of page: President Barack Obama reads a document in the Oval Office, Jan. 7, 2014. – Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Written By

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.


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