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Keystone XL pipeline closer to reality after State Department review

 
Keystone XL Pipeline Construction

Crews work on construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline east of Winona, Texas. Photograph: Sarah A Miller/AP

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Keystone XL pipeline closer to reality after State Department review” was written by Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, for theguardian.com on Friday 31st January 2014 22.07 UTC

The Keystone XL, a mundane pipeline project that escalated into a bitter proxy war over climate change and North America’s energy future, moved one important step closer to reality on Friday.

The State Department, in its final environmental review of the project, concluded that the pipeline, which would carry crude from the Alberta tar sands in Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast, would not – on its own – have a “significant” effect on carbon pollution.

The report acknowledged that crude from the tar sands was 17% more carbon intensive than conventional oil. But it said that did not mean that the project on its own would worsen climate change by expanding production from the tar sands.

“The approval or denial of any single given project is unlikely to significantly affect the extraction of the oil sands,” Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state, said during a conference call with reporters.

The finding clears the way for President Barack Obama to approve a project that has became a highly charged symbol of the fight over North America’s energy future. But he is under no deadline. The State Department said that the environmental impact statement it released on Friday was not an automatic guarantee Keystone XL would be completed.

“It’s only part of what we need to look at in order to make this important decision,” Jones said. She said that the decision-making process would also examine issues of energy security, foreign policy and economic interests, along with climate change.

Eight government agencies and the public now have 90 days to weigh in on the project. Secretary of State John Kerry, who worked on climate change for years in the Senate, will also have a say. The final decision rests with Obama, who will determine whether Keystone XL is in the US national interest.

But after five years of wrangling and delays, it now appears increasingly likely that TransCanada will be able to build the pipeline.

“If anything I would hope we would see a shorter time frame rather than a longer time frame,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s chief executive, told reporters. “My view is that the 90 days could be truncated significantly because I do believe that a lot of the inter-agency consultation has already taken place.”

Girling said it would take two full years to build the pipeline, once it had final approval.

The State Department, in Friday’s report, essentially concluded that Keystone would have little material effect on greenhouse gas emissions and that Canada would continue to develop and ship tar sands crude with or without the pipeline.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude at refineries in the United States,” the review said.

The review included models suggesting that transporting oil by rail would generate even more greenhouse gas emissions than a pipeline, and also discussed measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline.

“The facts do support this project. The science continues to show that this project can and will be built safely,” Girling said. “It will have a minimal effect on the environment and it will not significantly impact carbon emissions.”

The finding came as a bitter disappointment to environmental groups and some Democratic members of Congress, who had urged Obama to reject the pipeline.

“Even though the State Department continues to downplay clear evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to tar sands expansion and significantly worsen carbon pollution, it has, for the first time, acknowledged that the proposed project could accelerate climate change,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, a campaigner for the Natural Resources Defence Council.

 

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