Keystone Pipeline Inches Toward Green Light With Crucial Climate Finding

  • Date: 01/02/14
  • Ben Geman, National Journal

The State Department said Friday that the proposed Keystone pipeline is unlikely to bring a surge in greenhouse-gas emissions, a finding that brings it closer to approval but won’t end the intense lobbying fight over the project.

A long-awaited final environmental analysis concludes that building Keystone XL would probably not have much effect on the rate of expansion of carbon-intensive oil sands projects in Canada.

“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 oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios,” the report states.

That’s critical, because President Obama said last year that he would only approve TransCanada’s pipeline if he’s convinced it won’t “significantly exacerbate” carbon emissions.

The report is a milestone in the years-long battle over the pipeline that would bring hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day from Canadian oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.

But it’s hardly the end, and approval of the project is far from assured.

The State Department will now move into a separate, 90-day process to take input from other federal agencies to help decide whether approving Keystone is in the “national interest.”

State will also take more public comment. But there is not a deadline for a final White House decision on the project.

The White House emphasized late Friday that plenty of vetting remains before a decision arrives.

“The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement includes a range of estimates of the project’s climate impacts, and that information will now need to be closely evaluated by Secretary [of State John] Kerry and other relevant agency heads in the weeks ahead,” said Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman.

“A decision on whether the project is in the national interest will be made only after careful consideration of the SEIS and other pertinent information, comments from the public, and views of other agency heads,” he said.

The report is nonetheless good news for Canadian officials, who have strongly pushed for U.S. approval, as well as major business and oil industry groups and major unions that back the project.

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