State Dept report: Yeah, we can’t really think of a good reason not to build the Keystone pipeline

posted at 8:01 pm on March 1, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

TransCanada has only been waiting for the go-ahead for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline for, oh, four or so years now, and the State Department has now several times concluded that the pipeline poses no real reason for environmental alarm — despite the vociferous protestations of its eco-critics. After having released an environmental impact review in 2011 that basically concluded that the project poses no real threats, State released another revised environmental impact review on Friday afternoon that… also basically concludes that the project poses no real threats. It very carefully avoids making any recommendations for specific action on the pipeline’s fate, but at least fails to highlight any reason why the project shouldn’t be built:

A draft State Department report concludes that building the Keystone XL pipeline would not speed up development of Canada’s oil sands, dealing a blow to environmentalists who claim Keystone would worsen climate change.

The report from the State Department does not take a firm position on whether the proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline would be detrimental to the environment or exacerbate global warming.

But the draft also says that “approval or denial of the proposed project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.”

To what I’m sure the department knew would be the eco-warriors’ chagrin, the 2,000 page report confirmed what the pipeline’s proponents have been arguing: Whether the pipeline is built or not won’t have much of an impact on climate change, because Canada is still going to develop those oil sands (since China will happily buy up the supplies if we won’t allow them to filter through our own markets), and the “implementation of the proposed Project in Canada would not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects.”

The Friday-night-news-dump tactic was to little avail, however; the highly invested green lobbies have been on nonstop Keystone watch and quickly went into fits of outrageous outrage upon hearing the news, reports Politico:

The Sierra Club, one of many environmental groups hoping for a clear thumbs-down, said it was “outraged” by Friday’s outcome. …

“We’re mystified as to how the State Department can acknowledge the negative effects of the Earth’s dirtiest oil on our climate, but at the same time claim that the proposed pipeline will ‘not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, one of dozens of activists who were arrested in an anti-Keystone protest last month after tying himself to the White House gate. “Whether this failure was willful or accidental, this report is nothing short of malpractice.” …

Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford warned that “letting corporations get rich off of environmental devastation will make Obama’s climate rhetoric look like the worst kind of greenwashing.”

Climate activist Bill McKibben, organizer of the mass White House sit-ins in 2011 and last month’s Keystone protests, called the report “Groundhog Day — we’re hearing the same rehashed arguments from the State [Department] about why a great threat to the climate is not a threat at all.”

Dang. If there’s one thing I just love about the green lobby, it’s that they always shy away from hyperbole and drama — they’ve really got a sense of perspective, you know?

Don’t get your hopes up, however, that we’ll be getting a final answer on the job- and economy-boosting project anytime soon; the administration is now saying we shouldn’t expect a decision until around the middle of the year. (Does anybody else remember when “we can’t wait for jobs” was a thing? Good times, those.)


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