I don’t know if the environmentalist contingent was honestly hoping for some sort of staunch renunciation of the Keystone XL pipeline in the State Department‘s latest iteration of an environmental impact report or what, but they are not very happy campers right now. …Which seems kind of unreasonable, because even the Obama administration only has so much power to continually deny brazen facts, and the department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released on Friday afternoon was destined to conclude more or less the same thing that their last version did: That the construction of Keystone XL will have only a negligible impact on climate change. Canada is planning on developing and transporting their oil sands come hell or high water, and if it isn’t going to get done with the United States’ pipeline partnership, then it will just have to happen by rail, by sea, and through their own volition. Some quick key takeaways from the report via the WSJ:
An Obama administration analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline application shows the project wouldn’t likely change the amount of oil ultimately removed from Canadian oil sands, suggesting that building the pipeline would have little impact on global climate change.
The report found that the “approval or denial of any single project is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction of the oil in the oil sands, or the refining of heavy crude on the U.S. gulf coast,” a State Department official told reporters Friday. …
The report makes no recommendations on TransCanada Corp.’s permit request, leaving President Barack Obama the space to draw his own conclusions about whether the pipeline should get built.
As I said, the environmentalists are not pleased about this, and they are going to cling with all their might to the report’s finding that Canadian oil sands are indeed somewhat more carbon intensive than the oil that normally passes through our refineries:
— Sierra Club (@sierraclub) January 31, 2014
Don’t believe the oil industry’s hype. State Dpt analysis shows tar sands oil is more toxic, more corrosive, & more carbon-intensive. #nokxl
— Michael Brune (@bruneski) January 31, 2014
— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) January 31, 2014
The report actually concludes that Canada’s oil sands will emit about 17 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional crude, but again, that isn’t even the point here: The point is that those oil sands are coming out of the ground either way. As for jobs, the report again concludes: “During construction, proposed Project spending would support approximately 42,100 jobs (direct, indirect, and induced), and approximately $2 billion in earnings throughout the United States.”
As Tom Randall points out at Bloomberg, however, this still doesn’t quite mark the end of the interminable Keystone XL review process. The State Department’s latest environmental impact report just tees off the 90-day period during which they will deliberate over a more explicit decision over whether the pipeline is in the “national interests” (lolz), and during which a handful of other government agencies can give their own input, including the EPA and Interior. After that, I think it’s a safe bet that the eco-crowd will probably continue their desperate straw-grasping by trying to keep the contractor controversy going:
Today’s assessment was conducted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a U.K. company that environmentalists later criticized for potential conflicts of interest. The scrutiny is about to get heated. Two environmental groups, Friends of the Earth and the Checks and Balances Project, accused ERM in July of lying about its ties to TransCanada, the Calgary-based company that wants to build the pipeline. Specifically, they charged that ERM claimed not to have worked with TransCanada for at least three years, when in fact they had worked together more recently on a pipeline project in Alaska. The allegations are being investigated by the State Department’s Inspector General. In December, 25 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Obama asking for the final impact study to be delayed pending the outcome of that probe. That didn’t happen, but the conflict, if true, could conceivably lead to a do-over, which is not without precedent.
And the final step, of course, comes down to President Obama himself. If his own administration is having trouble coming up with any valid reasons why they should keep frustrating the pipeline — because, sorry eco-radicals, but just sticking it to fossil fuels because you don’t like fossil fuels is not a serious, real-world option — I don’t know how he’ll be able to spin an ultimate “no.” C’mon, let’s get bipartisan up in here!
— Senator Landrieu (@SenLandrieu) January 31, 2014