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Draft Assessment for New Keystone XL Route Positive

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

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TransCanada’s long-planned Keystone XL pipeline is a step closer to being built after the U.S. State Department released a draft environmental assessment suggesting that the alternative route proposed for the line would have a minimal effect on the environment and cultural resources.

The draft assessment, published Monday (July 30) and subject to public comment, looks at the so-called “Mainline Alternative” route for the pipeline—the routing approved by the state of Nebraska after TransCanada initially requested a different, preferred route.

Keystone XL
© TransCanada Corporation. All rights reserved

Keystone XL was revived in 2017 when President Donald J. Trump invited TransCanada to re-apply for a permit to build.

The report characterizes the potential impact of the pipeline to water resources and the impact of noise and vibration as “minor to moderate,” and the impact to geology, soils and air quality as “minor.” The impact to biological resources would be moderate, State says, while there would be minor impacts to cultural resources, including archaeological sites.

The assessment regards the potential impacts on socioeconomics and environmental justice as “none to minor beneficial,” citing possible positive effects on the region’s economic base and tax revenues.

The statement includes measures that should be taken in order to minimize negative impacts on environmental and cultural resources.

Environmentalists remain opposed to the pipeline; the Sierra Club released a statement Monday calling the "abbreviated" environmental assessment a "shortcut" around traditional process. The organization said it is challenging the State Department's original 2017 approval of the pipeline on the basis that it was based on an outdated environmental impact statement from 2014.

Pipeline Project History

Keystone XL, which would carry crude oil from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, was first proposed in 2008 and went through years of environmental reviews and regulatory holdups before the State Department rejected the pipeline in November 2015, thought procurement for the project had already begun.

President Donald J. Trump invited the company to resubmit its application for federal permission when he took office in January 2017, and the government overturned the previous rejection in March.

In November, Nebraska, the last state on the line's proposed route to still be considering whether or not to permit construction, approved the so-called Mainline Alternative Route for the line. The Mainline Alternative co-locates with established rights-of-way, including the existing Keystone Pipeline, over more miles than the preferred route, which, the commission says, was originally established simply because it was the shortest possible route between Hardisty, Alberta, and Steele City.

TransCanada said earlier this year that the pipeline is still economically viable, and the firm notified the State Department and the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes in May that it planned to begin clearing vegetation this fall in preparation for pipeline construction. The company hasn’t officially committed to the project, though.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the new document as a draft environmental impact statement; this shorter document is officially called an "environmental assessment."


Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Pipelines; President Trump; Program/Project Management

Comment from Alan Murray, (8/1/2018, 2:01 AM)

If Transcanada had gone with this route in the first place instead of trying to cut costs the line would now be in service. The irony is that the original routing objections were made by Republican landowners.

Comment from peter gibson, (8/2/2018, 3:01 PM)

The Sierra Club want only wind and sun energy. No oil,gas,coal. Good luck running a sophisticated economy like that. Feel sorry for such fools.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (8/3/2018, 11:01 AM)

Quite right, Peter...and don't tell the Sierra Club about the lifecycle impacts of lead or lithium (primary electrode material in power storage systems required with solar and wind systems) or massive open pit mines for might cause their "warm fuzzies" to turn to night sweats and night terrors.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (8/6/2018, 8:09 AM)

Gents, I suggest getting better educated on practical alternative energy. You seem to be getting bad data from somewhere. Wind power is by far the cheapest and most cost effective electricity on the grid here in Texas and through most of the Midwest - not exactly a bastion of Sierra Club activists, especially in the counties where most of the wind power is located. Virtually all lithium is "mined" by drilling for brine. Not open pit mines (there was a mislabeled picture of a massive open pit copper mine making the rounds on social media sites) - there is some very promising work being done on using the produced water from (some) oil wells for lithium production. Concept is proven, still to be seen if it can be cost competitive.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (8/7/2018, 11:38 AM)

Tom, yes, the process has improved, with most lithium coming from South African brine these days. Historically, though, it has been from electrolysis removal from other igneous minerals, often via open pit mining (yes, I am aware of the image you refer to and that it was not of a "lithium mine"). We're still cleaning up those mines. It would be great to be able to use oilfield well brine to do the same, but again, that's still in the conceptual / cost effectiveness analysis bin. Wind and solar, which we have here in Alberta too, are great resources, but still require storage systems to balance them out because of their nature. For me, it's some of the "end of life" byproducts that still concern me and impact how green the technology is overall (certainly better than fossil fuels, but still far from perfect too). I'm personally looking forward to some of the molten salt reactors / thorium reactors coming on line as they hold promise for readily available power, far, far better fuel utilization rates and low end of lifecycle issues.

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