TransCanada to Build Keystone XL in 2019
TransCanada, the firm behind the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, appears poised to move forward with construction in 2019 after the U.S. State Department released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Friday in compliance with a court order handed down just over a month prior.
On Aug. 16, Judge Brian Morris, of the U.S. District Court in Montana, ruled that the State Department’s environmental assessment of the long-delayed pipeline’s new route was insufficient and that the project required a full Environmental Impact Statement before it could be approved to move forward. On Friday (Sept. 21), the State provided its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which finds that the line would have negligible to minor impacts on most of the resources studied.
The study looks at factors including air quality and greenhouse gases, noise and vibration, water resources, cultural resources and socioeconomics and environmental justice, and estimates impacts both from the construction of the line and its continued operation.
A TransCanada spokesperson told CBS News in light of the new, positive EIS that the company is committed to pursuing construction beginning in 2019. Previously, TransCanada had signaled that it had commercial support for the line, and sent a letter to the State Department and local tribal officials notifying them that the company planned to begin clearing vegetation for the line this fall.
A Decade in the Making
The 1,179-mile Keystone XL was first proposed by TransCanada in 2008 and was subject to years of reviews and delays before the State Department under former President Barack Obama rejected the plan in late 2015 on the grounds it was not in the national interest of the United States. During the seven years that the line was under consideration, it had become a lightning rod for environmental activists.
|U.S. State Department|
The routing of the pipeline along the "Mainline Alternative" route in Nebraska triggered the need for a new environmental impact statement this year.
When Preident Donald J. Trump entered office, one of his first acts was to formally invite TransCanada to re-apply for permission to build the line; the company did, and quickly received permits from the federal government.
The final state to approve the pipeline, Nebraska, did so last November on the condition that TransCanada build on the “Mainline Alternative” route, which co-locates with existing rights-of-way for more miles than the company’s preferred route. The new Supplemental EIS was required because of that rerouting.
The 36-inch diameter pipe will carry crude from the oil fields of Alberta to Steele City, where it would then be moved via other pipelines to terminals in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. According to TransCanada, water crossings along the line will be made via horizontal directional drilling in order to minimize environmental impact, and the pipe under rivers will be made of thicker steel and protected with abrasion-resistant coatings to reduce the risk of damage that could lead to an underwater release.
More Challenges Planned
Environmental groups plan to continue to challenge the pipeline’s construction; the Sierra Club called the new EIS a “sham review” and in a statement, the organization’s Kelly Martin said its “fight will continue until Keystone XL is stopped once and for all.”