Campaigners disappointed as White House says 1,700-mile pipeline will not cause significant environmental damage
By Suzanne Goldenberg
In a blow to campaigners, who have spent the last week at a sit-in at the White House, the State Department said the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would not cause significant damage to the environment.
The State Department in its report said the project–which would pipe more than 700,000 barrels a day of tar sands crude to Texas refineries–would not increase greenhouse gas emissions. It also downplayed the risks of an accident from piping highly corrosive tar sands crude across prime American farmland.
Campaigners accused the State Department of consistently overlooking the potential risks of the pipeline.
"The State Department…failed to acknowledge the true extent of the project's threats to the climate, to drinking water and to the health of people who would breathe polluted air from refineries processing the dirty tar sands oil," Friends of the Earth said in a statement.
By John M. Broder and Clifford Krauss
The State Department said in an environmental impact statement that the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada, had reduced the risks of an accident to an acceptable level and that the benefits of importing oil from a friendly neighbor outweighed the potential costs.
Final approval of the $7 billion project will not come before the end of the year, after public hearings and consultation with other federal agencies. But the State Department report Friday gave every indication that the administration was prepared to see Keystone proceed. The pipeline is expected to open in 2013 unless delayed by lawsuits or other challenges.
For many in the environmental movement, the administration’s apparent acceptance of the pipeline was yet another disappointment, after recent decisions to tentatively approve drilling in the Arctic Ocean, to open 20 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico for oil leasing and to delay several major air quality regulations. The movement is still smarting from the administration’s failure to push climate change legislation through Congress.
Below: "The proposed pipeline will carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta (above) to the Texas coast." (Jeff McIntosh/AP)