Keystone XL – EPA trashes State Dept’s whitewash job

  • Published on April 24th, 2013

Exxon's Arkansas spill of tar sands oil

You blew it – go back and do it right.

That’s what the EPA told the State Department. State was supposed to have put together a serious environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline; instead it slapped together a botched job that painted a rosy low-impact scenario… that failed to take into account the reality of what the pipeline actually would do.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Tar sands oil is VERY carbon intensive – emissions could be almost twice as much per barrel for tar sands as for regular petroleum. The State Department report glossed over that difference by pretending it didn’t exist (since a big chunk of those emissions happens North of the border, they simply didn’t count them).

The EPA points out that over the next 50 years the difference could amount to almost a billion metric tons.

Will the Keystone XL change anything?

The State Dept. analysis pretended that tar sands oil would be extracted regardless, even if KXL is blocked. They pretended the oil could just be shipped by rail car. And that’s the whole basis of the conclusion that there would be no difference in greenhouse emissions with or without KXL.

But the EPA notes,

“the discussion in the DSEIS regarding energy markets, while informative, is not based on an updated energy-economic modeling effort. The DSEIS includes a discussion of rail logistics and the potential growth of rail as a transport option, however we recommend that the Final EIS provide a more careful review of the market analysis and rail transport options.”

In other words… actually run the numbers, don’t just extract them rectally. Because rail would cost a lot more, rendering tar sands oil uncompetitive, leading profit-driven corporations to leave the muck in the ground. Which would be a good thing.

Finally! Someone points out that PIPELINES SPILL!

The weirdest thing  in this whole process has been watching the authorities say “Oh, and these pipelines hardly ever spill” and their enablers in the media nodding sagely and saying “What are you dirty hippies all worked up about? There’s almost no danger of these lovely pipelines ever spilling”…

Even as actual, ugly spills were mucking up rivers and farmlands from Alberta to Michigan to Arkansas.

Here’s the EPA:

We have learned from the 2010 Enbridge spill of oil sands crude in Michigan that spills of  diluted bitumen (dilbit) [tar sands oil] may require different response actions…[and] have different impacts than spills of conventional oil. We recommend that these differences be more fully addressed in the Final EIS, especially as they relate to the fate and transport of the oil and the remediation that will be required.

The Enbridge spill involved a 30-inch diameter pipeline, smaller than the 36-inch diameter pipeline for proposed Project, and 20,000 barrels of oil sands crude were released. In that spill, oil sands crude sank to the bottom of the Kalamazoo River, mixing with the river bottom’s sediment and organic matter, making the oil difficult to find and recover.

After almost three years of recovery efforts, EPA recently determined that dredging of bottom sediments will be required to protect public health and welfare and the environment. This determination was based in large part on demonstrations that the oil sands crude associated with the Enbridge spill will not appreciably biodegrade.

Thank you!

Also, too…

The EPA memo also hits back at:

  • The way State glossed over impacts to the Ogalala Aquifer (source of MOST WATER for people and agriculture in the central plains, and a HUGE risk of contamination if one of those non-existent spills were to happen over the aquifer).
  • The way State downplayed alternate routes (longer, but potentially much safer – but as usual they only factored in the actual cost of the pipeline itself, not the other long-term costs if anything should happen to go wrong).
  • The way State ignored community and environmental justice impacts (like ramming the stinking pipelines through Native American communities).

And in conclusion:

Based on our review, we have rated the DSEIS as E0-2 (“Environmental Objections-Insufficient Information”)… We look forward to continuing to work with you and to provide assistance as you prepare the Final EIS. We also look forward to working with you as you determine whether approving the proposed project serves the national interest…

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
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