State Department Says Keystone XL Will Have Little Environmental Impact

Published March 5, 2013

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact” on global climate, the U.S. Department of State concluded in a 2,000-page draft review issued March 1. In addition to having no substantial impact on global climate, the pipeline will have no substantial impact on U.S. aquifers or Canadian oil sands production, the State Department reported.

Economic Benefits Documented
The Keystone XL pipeline would bring close to 1 million barrels of oil per day from neighboring Canada to the United States. The new pipeline, delivering oil along a secure route from a friendly, neighboring country, would provide nearly 10 percent of current U.S. oil imports.

The State Department review found the pipeline would create 42,000 jobs in the United States during a two-year construction period and would support additional permanent jobs after construction is complete.

No Impact on Oil Sands
Although environmental activist groups oppose oil sands production, the State Department review determined construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would have no substantial impact on Canadian oil sands production. Production will continue on schedule whether the oil is sold to energy companies in the United States or elsewhere, the review concluded.

Groundwater resources would also face little risk. Even where the pipeline would cross shallow sections of the Ogallala Aquifer, “petroleum releases from the proposed Project would not extensively affect water quality,” the review reported.

Waxman Criticizes Review
Picking a rare public fight with the Obama administration, U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) criticized the State Department findings in a March 1 statement to the press.

“The draft impact statement appears to be seriously flawed,” Waxman argued. “We don’t need this dirty oil. To stop climate change and the destructive storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires that we are already experiencing, we should be investing in clean energy, not building a pipeline that will speed the exploitation of Canada’s highly polluting tar sands.”

Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research, disagreed with Waxman.

“Once again, the State Department has found that the environmental impacts of pipelines are low,” said Simmons. “This is neither a new nor a novel result.”

“This makes it slightly more difficult for the Obama administration to continue to stall on approving the Keystone XL,” Simmons added. “They are running out of excuses and will probably have to make a final decision this year. Hopefully they will soon figure out that getting oil from Canada and not from overseas is in the national interest.”

Champion Speed Readers?
Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, pointed out the comprehensive nature of the State Department review.

“The State Department’s latest supplemental draft environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline spans 2,000 pages,” said Lewis, “yet environmental groups instantly denounced it as inadequate. Either they’re all champion speed readers or their hatred of oil companies predetermines their response. Only one of those answers is credible.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. 

Internet Info:

“Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement,” U.S. Department of State, March 1, 2013,