No Major Environmental Objections To Keystone XL Pipeline

By: Greg Palmer
By: Greg Palmer

WASHINGTON (CBS)-- The State Department on Friday issued a key environmental impact report on the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing President Obama one step closer to deciding whether to let the controversial project proceed.

The report concludes that the pipeline would not significantly worsen carbon pollution. Furthermore, it said “approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios.”

The report said that the pipeline’s construction would support about 42,100 jobs (directly and indirectly). After its construction, the operations of the pipeline would create about 50 jobs.

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The report, a State Department spokesman said, is “not a decision, but another step in the process."

The department, which has jurisdiction over the oil pipeline because it crosses international borders, will now take another 90 days to decide whether it is in the United States’ national interest. Other federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department will weigh in as well. If the State Department approves the project, it will be up to Mr. Obama to determine whether it should go forward.

In a speech last summer laying out a plan to reduce carbon emissions, Mr. Obama said that the net effects of the pipeline's impact on climate would be “absolutely critical” in determining whether or not the project would move forward.

"Our national interest will be served only if this project doesn't significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," he said.

The company building the pipeline, TransCanada, first submitted an application for the project in 2008, leaving the decision looming over Mr. Obama’s entire presidency. Thousands of people concerned about the project’s environmental impact have protested in front of the White House, while Texas landowners have filed dozens of lawsuits against the project. On the other side, Republicans have held up the pending project as a symbol of stalled progress during the Obama administration.

“If President Obama wants to score an easy win for the middle class, he could simply put the politics aside and approve the Keystone pipeline,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. “One stroke [of his pen] and the Keystone pipeline is approved. I know the Keystone issue is difficult for him because it involves a choice between pleasing the left and helping the middle class, but that’s exactly the type of decision he needs to make.”

Bill McKibben, co-founder of the environmental group, said in a statement Friday that it’s now time to see whether Mr. Obama will live up to his campaign promise to combat global warming.

“He's about the only person who hasn't weighed in on Keystone XL,” McKibben said. “Now we'll see if he's good for his word or if the fossil fuel industry is so strong they control even the president of the United States.”

The pipeline would carry oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada through Nebraska, where it would connect to already-approved pipelines that lead to refineries in the Texas Gulf Coast.

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