WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2014 – The State Department released an environmental impact statement today for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline project that supporters of the project lauded as an endorsement to begin the contentious project.
The pipeline would transport oil from the Alberta oil sands south to refineries in Texas. Opponents have argued the 1,700-mile project would increase global warming and make the United States more dependent on “dirty fossil fuel.”
The administration has repeatedly said the pipeline needs more study, while supporters have said it would create many jobs and lower U.S. dependency on foreign oil.
The statement is not a decisional document on whether to approve or deny the proposed project, but rather a technical assessment of the potential environmental impacts related to the proposed pipeline.
The State Department said the presidential permit review process will next focus on whether the 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 said it will consult with eight agencies: Departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The statement encouraged pipeline supporter Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who said it moved the project one step closer to approval, and reaffirmed that construction would have a minimal environmental impact.
Heitkamp said the report said that whether the pipeline is built or not, the Canadian oil-sands will be developed. “The question is, will Canada move it to the United States to be refined, or somewhere else across the globe?” she said.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the statement “provides no contradiction to what we have known to be true about the project for years; that its impact on global emissions is negligible, it will create jobs, and it will reduce North America’s dependence on foreign oil.”
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said, “The president could start creating good-paying jobs with a stroke of his pen, yet for five years now the president has picked far-left special interest groups over jobs for middle-class Americans.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who has questioned the safety of the pipeline, said she directed committee staff to review the statement “line by line.”
“I will not be satisfied with any analysis that does not accurately document what is really happening on the ground when it comes to the extraction, transport, refining, and waste disposal of dirty, filthy tar sands oil,” Boxer said. “My biggest concerns continue to be the serious health impacts on communities and the dangerous carbon pollution that comes from tar sands oil.”
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