EPA criticism of State Department’s KXL review focuses on risks


The security risks of the Keystone XL pipeline are once again under the microscope following the Environmental Protection Agency’s highly critical assessment of the State Department’s environmental review for the proposed tar sands pipeline. Late on April 22nd, the EPA said it had “environmental objections” and raised several objections to the draft environmental impact statement of the project, pointing out insufficient information on greenhouse gas emissions, pipeline spill safety and alternative routes. Concerns about the risks of this massive foreign project come as the State Department was flooded with more than 1,000,000 public comments criticizing their review and as flawed cleanup efforts continue in suburban Arkansas, where a tar sands oil spill has devastated neighborhoods.


MT @JrWiese @EPAgov criticizes @StateDept review of #KXL for failure to adequately consider #climate impacts http://t.co/TJcDAfpSlu


Key Points

  • The State Department’s environmental review of Keystone XL has been sharply criticised by Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA said the State Department had “insufficient information” on greenhouse gas emissions, pipeline spill safety and the impact on the area around the proposed route to conclude the project should go forward without further review. This adds more support to widespread criticism of the State Department’s recent handling of of the Keystone XL approval process.

  • In just days, more than a million people signed a petition urging the State Department to reject building the Keystone XL and now the EPA is on record saying the State Department hasn’t done a good job considering the threat the project poses. Clearly, it’s time for leadership on this issue. President Obama has repeatedly spoken about the urgent need to address climate change since his inauguration, but he has said little about the Keystone XL pipeline. Given the massive focus on Keystone and the threats Keystone and tar sands oil pose to the climate it’s hard to see how the president could allow the project to go forward while staying true to his words.

  • The Keystone XL pipeline is all risk and no reward for the United States. The Keystone XL will carry damaging Canadian tar sands oil through the United States so it can be sold to foreign markets while failing to even create 40 jobs.  This is a bad deal with real consequences. Families in Arkansas see those consequences as they clean up after a recent tar sands pipeline accident. Former NASA scientist James Hansen has gone on record saying that if tar sand oil is developed, it’s “game over” for the planet.


The State Department’s second draft environmental impact statement, which included a change in route to help avoid the Ogallala Aquifer, concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline would not cause an unacceptable risk of damage by oil spills, nor would it contribute to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental groups, however, have firmly challenged the State Department’s conclusion, pointing out flaws in its assumptions, holes in its analyses, and its underestimation of the damage that will be caused by inevitable spills and intensified climate impacts.

On top of this, it was quickly discovered that the contractors hired by the State Department to perform the environmental review had past ties to the fossil fuel industry, raising a conflict of interest. This echoed the first environmental impact statement, issued by Hillary Clinton’s State Department in 2011, in which State Department officials failed to claim or cut their own conflicts of interest with respect to TransCanada. The flawed analyses and persisting conflicts of interest within the State Department indicate to many that their conclusion on the KXL isn’t objective and can’t be the basis for President Obama’s ultimate decision. In response to the State Department’s review, environmental and climate groups successfully collected over 1 million public comments criticizing the review and opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Additionally, CREDO mobile and the Rainforest Action Network have officially announced plans to train 60,000 activists in civil disobedience, part of an escalating campaign that will culminate after the State Department releases its ‘determination of national interest’ review in the fall of 2013, and before President Obama makes a decision on the pipeline. The civil disobedience will consist of 1,000 demonstrations in two weeks targeting corporate offices, the State Department, and events of Obama’s ‘Organizing for Action’ campaign group.



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  • “The Obama administration cannot be guilty of lighting a fuse on a carbon bomb. President Obama’s entire legacy and all the good he has done can be wiped out if he makes the wrong decision on this question.” –Van Jones – Rebuild the Dream
  • “This is clearly the key test for the president, This is the most important thing he could do on climate change at this moment.” –Jamie Henn co-founder 350.org
  • “The Keystone Pipeline would also be a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.” –Bill McKibbin co-founder 350.org
  • “If we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate, “unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground. If the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over.” James Hansen, Head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

More Tweets

  • RT @Eilperin How much does EPA’s critique of State’s #KXL draft environmental review matter? A lot: wapo.st/10wnf8z