The powerful U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems to be taking its mandate seriously. At least as far as the State Department’s recent evaluation of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is concerned.
In an official letter issued last Monday, the EPA trashed the State Department’s draft report, the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), released in March. It expressed grave concern that the report gave an overly-positive environmental assessment of the $7 billion project. That it bizarrely concluded that the 875 mile long pipeline was environmentally sound.
As you’ll recall, the State Department’s conclusions upset a lot of environmentalists. For many good reasons.
Canada’s vast tar sands are currently the 5th largest climate threat in the world.
If approved, Keystone XL would ship up to 830,000 barrels of the dirty oil per day from Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. That’s and additional 240 000 barrels from the current 590,000 barrels per day. The EPA argued that this increase would indeed have a serious negative impact on the environment.
According to Think Progress:
EPA acknowledged the DEIS’s attempt to do a life-cycle analysis of the pipeline’s emissions, which found that emissions from oil sands crude would be 81 percent higher than regular crude, or an incremental increase of 18.7 million metric tons of CO2 per year. EPA noted that “If GHG intensity of oil sands crude is not reduced, over a 50 year period the additional CO2 from oil sands crude transported by the pipeline could be as much as 935 million metric tons.
Canadians have also expressed serious learned concerns with Keystone XL. The 71% foreign-owned tar sands are creating a double threat that could hurt the Canadian economy, concluded a recent progressive study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and Polaris Institute. The study argued that the tar sands would plunge Canada into a “carbon trap” – a heavy reliance on the export of bitumen, while becoming “less diversified, productive and resilient.” Furthermore, the “carbon trap” would lock Canada into an carbon dependent development path, making the costs of future climate adaptation much more difficult.
The Alberta tar sands are turning Canada into a petro-state. So I argued last Ocgtober after the Harper Government approved the $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen Inc., a Calgary-based Canadian energy company, by the China National Offshore Oil Co. (CNOOC), a state-owned Chinese company. See also here and here and here.
In early February, the Sierra Club and sixty leading environmental, conservation, development, faith-based, and social justice organizations wrote to the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, and urged him to reject the pipeline. On February 17, over 40 000 Americans gathered in Washington D.C. for the historic “Forward on Climate” rally protesting the pipeline. They demanded that Obama act on the climate crisis.
EPA has recommended major revisions to the analysis. Would have been something special if the EPA had explicitly rebuked TransCanada Corp. According to this Grist.org report and this Truth-out.org report, a private company hired by TransCanada authored the document.
The rebuke certainly complicates efforts to win approval for the President Barack Obama.
“The Environmental Protection Agency’s letter shows that despite multiple tries, the State Department is incapable of doing a proper analysis of the climate, wildlife, clean water, safety and other impacts of this disastrous and unneeded project,” said Jim Murphy, the National Wildlife Federation. “President Obama has more than enough information to determine the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in America’s national interest and he should reject it.”