Draft Assessment for New Keystone XL Route Positive
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.
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it is challenging the State Department's original 2017 approval of the pipeline on the basis that it was based on an outdated environmental impact statement from 2014.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."