Keystone XL roundup – Yeah, the State Department report sucks

  • Published on January 31st, 2014

The SEIS on Keystone, published Jan. 31, 2014
By Meteor Blades

As expected, the State Department released its long-awaited Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL pipeline Friday afternoon. Most media reports have been stating that the 11-volume document gives the project a green light and the response to that from many environmental advocates has been fierce.

But Josh Mogerman, deputy director of national media at the Natural Resources Defense Councilwrote Friday afternoon:

Lots of reporters seem to have been working off of the State Department’s briefing that took place this morning, rather than reading the actual Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that came out late afternoon today. There’s an array of issues that the first wave of stories seem to be getting wrong—and we will deconstruct some of that stuff later. But the issue of Keystone XL being the lynchpin that determines whether unsustainable plans to triple production of the dirtiest oil on the planet continues to get short shrift. Simply put, if the President says no to this project, the tar sands industry will be forced to take their foot off the pedal, which in turn means easing off one of the fastest growing sources of carbon pollution in North America.

The final decision on the pipeline must await an interagency review, evaluation of public comments and President Obama’s consideration of whatever recommendation the State Department sends him. All that will take at least 90 days, and probably at least a bit longer. Odds favor a thumbs-up for the project. Activists are, however, determined to fight its construction by various means, including civil disobedience.One leading foe, Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona issued a statement on his website Friday afternoon:

#Keystone SEIS fix was in long ago. Utter sham from State Dept. Conflicts of interest ignored… #NoKXL #p2
— @RepRaulGrijalva

“This process has featured multiple documented conflicts of interest, corporate failure to disclose relevant business ties, and a State Department more interested in greasing the skids than doing due diligence. We thought we’d seen the last of this in the George W. Bush era, when profits came before science and wealthy corporate interests called all the shots. […]“This document will be seen by the entire environmental community – in which I certainly include myself—as a sham. The fact that the Canadian government and the oil industry were reportedly briefed on today’s news before Congress was given the courtesy of a heads-up speaks volumes. It encourages the already widely held impression that the fix was in from the beginning. If the administration expects to avoid the lasting stink of having ignored every red flag in the book, it needs to explain itself.” […]

“The only way to approve Keystone XL is to ignore the multiple lies TransCanada told the State Department in its application. I’m sorry to see the State Department is comfortable with that. There’s a difference between having enough political cover to make something happen and being able to look the American people in the eye to justify a decision. This project shouldn’t have any cover at all, and it certainly doesn’t pass the look-you-in-the-eye test.

“The public now has 90 days to comment on the environmental damage the project itself and tar sands generally will do to the environment. The scientific verdict is already in. The only way for it to matter now is for everyone to make his or her voice heard as loudly as possible. I intend to do that, and I invite the American people to join me.”

Those public comments should be submitted between Feb.5 and March 7 here.

In an email, Duncan Meisel, the online organizer of—co-founded by environmental activist and author Bill McKibben, an avid foe of the pipeline—wrote:

Next Monday we’re joining our allies across the climate movement to organize hundreds of evening rallies to show President Obama we’re watching his next move. […]Step two is to set some firm plans to put the pressure on President Obama. Next Tuesday, the night after the vigils, 350 will host an online video chat to lay out what needs to be done for the next few months—and reveal a few surprises that are already in the works.

You can find an action near you by clicking here.

McKibben issued his own statement:

“The intrusion of reality into this process is really important. The report concluded that in a scenario where we take climate change seriously and regulate climate pollution, this pipeline will indeed have a ‘significant impact’ on climate change. So now we’ll find out if that’s the world Barack Obama and John Kerry want. This report gives President Obama everything he needs in order to block this project. This is the first environmental issue in years to bring Americans into the streets in big numbers, and now they’ll be there in ever greater numbers to make sure the President makes the right call.”

Stephen Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International, stated:

“The State Department’s review, written by Big Oil’s cronies, presents a fatalistic view of a future devastated by extreme and catastrophic climate change. But we, and millions of Americans, know there is a different way.This report assumes business as usual, which is not surprising for an industry-written report. Despite that, the report concedes that the emissions impact could be “1.3 to 27.4 MMTCO2e annually,”[1] equivalent to as many as 5.7 million new cars.

5.7 million new cars is clearly a significant increase in carbon emissions. […]

The President says he understands climate and is committed to acting in the interests of posterity and not big donors. That means rejecting Keystone XL, plain and simple. The President and Secretary of State Kerry have all the information they need to reject this pipeline.

As a new phase of public comments begins, we know the President will be hearing loud and clear that this report is an artifact of a corrupt process, and the pipeline is a disaster for our climate, our communities, and our future.”

Climatologist Michael Mann wrote in The Guardian:

“The simple fact is this: if Keystone XL is built, it will be easier to exploit fossil fuel reserves large enough to drastically destabilize the climate. A direct pipeline to refineries and global markets makes the business of polluting the atmosphere that much cheaper and easier.The only truly accurate examination of the pipeline would include a full cost accounting its environmental footprint. It needs to take into account how much energy is consumed in refining and transporting the crude from oil sands. It must acknowledge that the pipeline would lower the cost and raise the convenience of extracting and exporting the incredibly carbon-intensive deposits of gas. […]

So, looking through the lens of path dependency, what does the Keystone XL project look like?

It looks like decades of extracting high-CO2 fuel at a time when we should be winding down such carbon intensive resource exploitation. It looks like decades of oil spills across America’s heartland written off as an acceptable side effect of making money. It looks like decades of continued political lobbying against any CO2-limiting regulations.

If approved and built, it looks like the United State is failing to take climate change seriously by virtually guaranteeing the massive Canadian oil sands reserved are exploited. That, I’m afraid, is the real threat of Keystone XL – the loss of US status as a global leader.”

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkely of Oregon said:

“Instead of this pipeline, we should be making investments in our infrastructure that will create good-paying jobs that don’t also increase the pollution that threatens our farms, fish, and forests. I support making investments in energy efficiency that not only create these good-paying jobs but help conserve energy and lower energy bills for consumers. An example of this is the program I helped create in the farm bill that will provide funding for low-interest loans to rural energy customers to make our homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient. This is also why I have fought for critical investments in our water infrastructure with the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.”

Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change Co-Chairs Rep. Henry A. Waxman and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse each commented.


“While still flawed, this environmental review recognizes that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline could have a significant effect on carbon pollution, depending on variables such as oil prices and transportation costs,” said Rep. Waxman. “Keystone XL is the oil industry’s number one priority because it is critical to their plans to triple production of tar sands, the most carbon-polluting oil on the planet. Approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be a huge step in the wrong direction on climate change – a step America, and the world, can’t afford to take.”


“This isn’t any normal pipeline. Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest fuels on Earth and pumping it through the Keystone pipeline would accelerate climate change,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released today underestimates key factors about the pipeline’s effect on carbon pollution and climate change. Fortunately, today’s statement isn’t the last word. I urge Secretary Kerry and President Obama to look beyond State’s flawed report, which is at odds with the President’s Climate Action Plan, and deny the proposal.”

Senior Counsel for the National Wildlife Federation Jim Murphy wrote:

“The State Department’s report for the first time acknowledges that the Keystone XL pipeline has significant climate impacts, and could cause the equivalent carbon emissions of up to almost 6 million new cars being put on the road. With the release of this report, President Obama now has what he has needs to reject this boondoggle pipeline. […]The Keystone XL pipeline exacerbates climate change and should be denied. There is near universal agreement, including among industry officials and Canadian proponents, that Keystone XL’s approval is a lynchpin to massive tar sands expansion. James Hansen is among numerous scientists to have declared such an expansion will essentially mean game over for the planet. Even investors like Goldman Sachs have recognized that without KXL, tar sands expansion plans will be slowed.”

(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)

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