The web is abuzz with news of the U.S. State Department report released today, which concludes that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands developments in Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast will have minimal environmental impacts.
The $13 billion pipeline of TransCanada Corp (TRP) would extend 1,661 miles from Alberta through parts of Saskatchewan and eastern Montana on its way through five more states to Houston, Tx., and Port Arthur, La.
“The analyses of potential impacts associated with construction and normal operation of the proposed project suggest that there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed project corridor,” the report found. It stipulated that appropriate precautions must be taken.
The oil industry, 14 U.S. senators and four unions representing 2.6 million workers have pushed for swift approval of the pipeline, according to Bloomberg. The pipeline’s proponents say it would help keep energy costs down, stimulate $20 billion in spending for the U.S. economy and spur creation of 118,000 jobs.
“The nation’s quintessential shovel-ready project is a step closer to reality,” Cindy Schild, the American Petroleum Institute’s refining manager, told Bloomberg in an e-mail. “We need this critical project because more jobs and a move to secure energy equal a stronger economy.”
In a conference call with reporters, Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones repeatedly insisted the report does not indicate the project is a done deal, reported Politico.
“Let me say very clearly: This is not the rubber stamp for this project,” Jones said. “The permit for this project has not been approved or rejected at all.”
“Whether to approve this pipeline is the most important environmental decision President Obama will make before the election,” Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica in a press release. “If he sides with greedy oil companies instead of people and the climate, he will essentially be urging a huge part of his base to sit out the election.”
“The document still fails to address the key concerns for landowners and wildlife,” the Washington Post quoted Jim Lyon, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation. “It is almost certain to be scrutinized in other venues, including a probable legal challenge. This only escalates the controversy in a process that is far from over.”
“We believe we are building the safest pipeline in North America,” TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha told the New York Times.
Alberta’s energy minister Ron Liepert told the Winnipeg Free Press he is pleased with the analysis, calling U.S. State Department “balanced and based on facts, not emotions.”
Oil from the sands, which needs to be extracted with hot water or steam and then diluted with lighter oil so it will flow in a pipe, creates higher carbon dioxide emissions than some other forms of oil production, the Financial Times noted.
The Alberta oil sands developments are the destination of hundreds of so-called megaloads of mining equipment that oil companies have been attempting for months to truck across Idaho and Montana from Idaho’s inland Port of Lewiston, against stiff opposition from citizen activists.
Several hundred activists, including actress Margot Kidder and prominent scientists, have been arrested in recent days in protests outside the White House.
The State Department will hold 13 public meetings, including in Montana, between Sept. 26 and Oct. 6 to get feedback on whether the pipeline should win federal approval. A final decision on the project is expected to be announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later this year.