Keystone XL Pipeline: EPA Criticizes State Dept. Environmental Review

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=”font-family:>Keystone XL Pipeline Construction
Source: Oil and Gas Lawyer Blog, “Keystone Construction, Shale Jobs and the Election, Wind Energy Credits, Shale Technology, and Range Resources’ Battles,”, Nov. 3, 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a public letter on Mon. Apr 22 criticizing the conclusions of a Mar. 1, 2013 State Department environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sand pipeline.

According to the EPA, the State Department had concluded in its “Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Review” that tar sand oil would continue to find its way into the US market regardless of whether or not the pipeline is built, and therefore, approval of the pipeline would “not by itself substantially affect GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions or contribute to climate change.”

The EPA letter criticized those findings, arguing that the State Department report did not properly assess the higher costs associated with rail transport of tar sand oil. The EPA reasoned that higher transportation costs could reduce the total amount of tar sands oil that is extracted and refined, thus reducing future greenhouse gas emissions.

Jack Spencer, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, challenged the EPA’s conclusions stating that the “EPA’s objections to the State Department’s draft [environmental impact statement] demonstrate once again that the EPA is more interested in promoting a political agenda than protecting public health and safety… The XL pipeline has been studied extensively and has been found to be environmentally safe twice.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been opposed to the pipeline stating that he is “disturbed by the proposal” and questions “why in the world would we ever consider approving a new Big Oil pipeline to carry dirty fuel and keep America addicted to oil, when we could save money, create jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil by moving to stronger fuel economy standards?” Dr. James Hansen, former Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, has argued that “exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts.”

However, the US Chamber of Commerce states that approving the pipeline will “provide approximately twenty thousand badly needed manufacturing and construction jobs, and contribute an estimated $20 billion in benefits to the U.S. economy.” The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association has argued that “limiting oil sands crude use could cause Canadian producers to ship their product to Asian markets, while the US would have to import more oil in tankers from the Middle East and elsewhere, thus increasing the carbon footprint.”

If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved it could eventually transport up to 830,000 barrels of diluted bitumen crude (tar sand oil) over 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas. According to the EPA, tar sand oil can emit up to 82% more carbon dioxide than conventional oil. 

A previous 2008 application to construct the Keystone XL pipeline was denied by President Obama on Jan. 18, 2012 due to concerns over an “arbitrary deadline” and “the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.”


Neela Banerjee, “EPA Criticizes Environmental Review of Keystone Pipeline,”, Apr. 22, 2013

Lenny Bernstein and Juliet Eilperin, “EPA Wants State Dept. to Rework Analysis of Keystone XL Pipeline,”, Apr. 22, 2013

David Biello, “EPA on Keystone XL:  Significant Climate Impacts from Tar Sands Pipeline,”, Apr. 23, 2013

EPA, comment letter on State Department environmental review of Keystone XL pipeline,, Apr. 22, 2013

Juliet Eilperin, “How Much Does EPA’s Objection to Keystone XL Matter? A Lot,”, Apr. 23, 2013

James E. Hansen,”Silence Is Deadly: I’m Speaking Out Against Canada-US Tar Sands Pipeline,”, June 4, 2011

National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, “Myth vs. Fact: Canadian Oil Sands & Keystone XL Pipeline,”, Jan. 27, 2012

Barack Obama, “Statement by the President on the Keystone XL Pipeline,”, Jan. 18, 2012

Bernie Sanders, “Why We Should Block the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline,”, Aug. 17, 2011

US Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy, “Keystone XL Pipeline,” (accessed Apr. 25, 2013)