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Keystone XL Clears State Dept. Report

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

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The State Department has found no major environmental objections to TransCanada Corp.’s latest proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline, unplugging another major obstacle to the six-year-old plan.

Although not a "decisional document," the department's 11-volume Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Final Supplemental EIS), released Friday (Jan. 31), clears a major hurdle in the $5.8 billion project.

Images unless indicated: U.S. State Dept.

Secretary of State John Kerry will review the route with multiple agencies before making his recommendation.

The pipeline would allow delivery of up to 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil extracted from the oil sands (tar sands) areas in Alberta, Canada.

Project critics say that tar-sands oil is heavier and more corrosive than regular crude. They also criticize TransCanada's operation of the original 1,300-mile Keystone system, which saw 14 spills in its first 14 months.


The State Department's new technical assessment evaluates the proposed 875-mile pipeline project that would extend from Morgan, MT, to Steele City, NE, in the United States.

TransCanada worker
TransCanada Corp.

This is the second pipeline route plan that TransCanada has submitted. A Canadian official said Keystone XL would create 46,000 jobs in North America.

The project requires a Presidential Permit because the pipeline would originate in western Canada and cross the U.S. border at Morgan, MT.

The State Department's assessment addresses more than 1.9 million comments received on the project since June 2012.

This is the State Department's fourth review of the project. In August 2011, the department issued a nine-volume, 1,000-page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the original $7.6 billion, 1,700-mile route, proposed in 2008.


The current plan, submitted in 2012, has been scaled down significantly from the 2008 original.

That evaluation detailed 57 “Special Conditions” for the pipeline, all of which TransCanada met.

Project Trimmed

However, under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency and the project's other critics, the White House requested that part of the route be shifted away from the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska.

TransCanada Corp. then submitted a new application in May 2012 with the current route for the northern leg of the project. The current proposal eliminates an earlier plan to build a southern segment from Cushing, OK, to the Gulf Coast.


The 11-volume technical assessment found no significant environmental impact by the 875-mile pipeline project.

Instead, the current proposal would link the new pipeline segment at Steele City with others operated by TransCanada to carry the oil south.

Cheers and Jeers

Canadian officials, who have deemed Keystone XL in that nation's national interest, greeted the State Department report enthusiastically.

"We welcome the U.S. State Department's report and are encouraged that it concludes that Keystone XL will not have a significant environmental impact," said Canadian Minister of National Resources Joe Oliver.

The project will create 42,000 jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity in Canada and the United States, Oliver said.


White House protests in 2011 derailed the original Keystone XL proposal. TransCanada responded with a reduced plan that avoids environmentally sensitive regions.

Environmental groups, however, vowed to continue their years-long battle against the project. Activists planned yesterday (Feb. 3) to hold "rapid-response vigils” at the State Department, other federal offices, and elsewhere, Elijah Zarlin of the opposition group Credo told The New York Times.

Wealthy donors will support the stepped-up opposition, experts told the Times.

Next Steps

The Presidential Permit review process now focuses on whether the proposed project serves the national interest, which involves consideration of energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy; and compliance with relevant federal regulations and issues.

Those determinations will be made in meetings over the next several months between Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives from at least eight agencies identified in Executive Order 13337.

The final recommendation will be Kerry's.


This is the State Department's fourth review of the project, which was originally proposed in 2008.

A 30-day public comment period will begin with the publication of a Federal Register notice on Wednesday (Feb. 5) and close March 7. The public and interested parties are encouraged to submit comments on the national interest. Comments will be made public.

The Final Supplemental EIS and all additional documents on the project are available on the State Department's Keystone XL Pipeline Project homepage.



Tagged categories: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government; Government contracts; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Project Management

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