WASHINGTON, April 25, 2014 – Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., pressed the State Department today to conduct an “independent, comprehensive” study of potential health impacts associated with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the senators requested a human health study of tar sands and the proposed pipeline. The senators said the letter comes in response to a recent statement by a State Department official that the department’s forthcoming national interest determinations report for the pipeline “will address health impacts,” but did not specify whether it would include an independent, comprehensive look the impacts.

The senators said previous studies have been inadequate in “analyzing and addressing the potentially serious human health impacts on the numerous communities that confront each step of the toxic tar sands oil process.”

The proposed pipeline would transport oil from the Alberta tar oil sands in Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Opponents argue the 1,700-mile project would increase global warming and make the U.S. more dependent on “dirty fossil fuel.” The Obama administration has repeatedly said the pipeline needs more study, while supporters have said it would create thousands of jobs and lower U.S. reliance on foreign oil.

“Based on the human health impacts that we do know about, building this pipeline is not in the national interest,” the senators wrote. “These impacts include the significantly higher levels of dangerous air pollutants and carcinogens found downwind from where tar sands oil is refined, the exposure to tar sands oil from pipeline spills, and the open disposal of the tar sands waste byproduct.”

The State Department recently announced that it is extending the comment period for federal agencies to submit views on the controversial Keystone pipeline project. The move prompted immediate criticism from several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, some of whom have accused the administration of trying to delay making a decision on the project until after the mid-term elections in November. Other lawmakers and stakeholders argue that more review of the project is necessary.


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