GOP uses report to renew pipeline push

Environmental impact small, US study shows

Republicans want the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada approved quickly, but observers do not expect a decision until summer at the earliest.
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Republicans want the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada approved quickly, but observers do not expect a decision until summer at the earliest.

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner and other supporters of the long-delayed Keystone oil pipeline from Canada say a new State Department report is the latest evidence that the long-delayed project should be approved.

The draft report, issued Friday, found there would be no significant environmental impact to most resources on the proposed route from western Canada to refineries in Texas. The report also said other options to get the oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries are worse for climate change.

Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said the report ‘‘again makes clear there is no reason for this critical pipeline to be blocked one more day.’’


After four years of what he called ‘‘needless delays,’’ Boehner said it is time for President Obama ‘‘to stand up for middle-class jobs and energy security and approve the Keystone pipeline.’’

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Environmentalists see the State Department report in a vastly different light.

They say it was inadequate and failed to account for climate risks posed by the pipeline. The report also is based on a false premise, opponents say — namely, that tar sands in western Canada will be developed for oil production regardless of whether the Keystone XL pipeline is approved.

‘‘Americans are already suffering from the consequences of global warming, from more powerful storms like Hurricane Sandy to drought conditions currently devastating the Midwest and Southwest,’’ said Daniel Gatti of the group Environment America.

Production of oil from Canadian tar sands could add as much as 240 billion metric tons of global warming pollution to the atmosphere, Gatti said, a potential catastrophe that would hasten the arrival of the worst effects of global warming.


Gatti and other opponents said development of the vast tar sands is far from certain, despite assurances by the project’s supporters.

‘‘Tar sands can be stopped, and we are stopping it,’’ Gatti said, citing a rally in Washington last month attended by an estimated 35,000 people.

Project opponents also have blocked construction in Texas and Oklahoma and have been arrested outside the White House gate.

The pipeline plan has become a flashpoint in the US debate about climate change. Republicans and business and labor groups have urged the Obama administration to approve the project as a source of jobs and a step toward North American energy independence.

Environmental groups have been pressuring the president to reject the pipeline, saying it would carry ‘‘dirty oil’’ that contributes to global warming. They also worry about a spill.


The State Department review stopped short of recommending approval of the project, but it gave the Obama administration political cover if it chooses to endorse the pipeline in the face of opposition from many Democrats and environmental groups.

State Department approval of the 1,700-mile pipeline is needed because it crosses a US border.

The draft report issued Friday begins a 45-day comment period, after which the department will issue a final environmental report before Secretary of State John Kerry makes a recommendation about whether the pipeline is in the national interest.

Kerry has promised a ‘‘fair and transparent’’ review of the plan and said he hopes to decide on the project in the ‘‘near term.’’ Most observers do not expect a decision until summer at the earliest.

The lengthy report stated that Canadian tar sands are likely to be developed, regardless of whether the United States approves the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil through Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

The report acknowledges that development of tar sands in Alberta would create greenhouse gases but makes clear that other methods of transporting the oil — including rail, trucks and barges — also pose a risk to the environment.

The State Department analysis for the first time evaluated two options using rail: shipping the oil on trains to existing pipelines or to oil tankers. The report shows that those other methods would release more greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming than the pipeline.