Thursday, August 09, 2012

Rep. Waxman Wants Keystone XL EIS To Address Climate Change

Aug 8: House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to Assistant Secretary Kerri-Ann Jones regarding the State Department's pending evaluation of the environmental impacts of TransCanada's revised Keystone XL pipeline proposal. In the letter Rep. Waxman writes, "The revised Keystone XL tar sands pipeline proposal presents the question of whether it is in the national interest of the United States to approve a project to significantly increase imports of one of the most carbon-intensive sources of transportation fuel in the world. Much of the intense public opposition to the pipeline stems from concerns about its effects on climate change. For these reasons, I again urge the State Department to conduct a thorough and meaningful analysis of how approval of this project might affect the threat of climate change."
    Representative Waxman said, "The most critical issue that the State Department must evaluate in the EIS is the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline's implications fro climate change. Extraction of tar sands bitumen requires far more energy than extraction of conventional oil, and over its lifecycle, tar sands bitumen produces substantially greater greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. For example, the final EIS highlights a DOE study indicating that tar sands crude produces 17% higher greenhouse gas emissions over its lifecycle compared to the U.S. 2005 average fuel, while other studies have somewhat higher or lower estimates."
    On June 15, 2012, the State Department published its Notice of Intent To Prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and To Conduct Scoping and To Initiate Consultation Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for the Proposed TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Proposed To Extend From Phillips, MT (the Border Crossing) to Steele City, NE.
    TransCanada proposes to construct and operate a crude oil pipeline and related facilities from an oil supply hub near Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to the northernmost point of the existing Keystone Pipeline Cushing Extension at Steele City, Nebraska. The pipeline is anticipated to be 1,179 miles long (329 miles of that are in Canada) and has an initial capacity of 830,000 barrels per day. To connect the Canadian and U.S. portions of the pipeline project, TransCanada must first obtain a Presidential Permit from the Department of State authorizing the construction, operation, and maintenance of the pipeline and related facilities at the international border.
    Interestingly, the State Department Federal Register SEIS notice does not mention the word "climate" or "climate change." The notices indicates that, in the SEIS, the Department of State will discuss impacts that could occur as a result of the construction and operation of the revised proposed project under these general headings: Geology and soils; Water resources; Fish, wildlife, and vegetation; Threatened and endangered species; Cultural resources; Land use, recreation and special interest areas; Visual resources; Air quality and noise; Socioeconomics; Environmental Justice; and, Reliability and safety.
    The State Department indicates on its website that, "We are cooperating with the state of Nebraska, as well as other relevant State and Federal agencies, in the review of the application. In June 2012, Governor Heinemann of Nebraska said that their review of the new proposed route will take six to ten months. Last November when we announced consideration of an alternate route through Nebraska, our best estimate on timing was that we would complete the review process in the first quarter of 2013. We will conduct our review in a rigorous, transparent and efficient manner, using existing analysis as appropriate." 
    The State Department also announced that it has selected Environmental Resources Management (known as "ERM") to serve as an independent third-party contractor for its environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project. ERM will assist the Department in conducting a thorough analysis of both the new route in Nebraska (in cooperation with the State of Nebraska) and any relevant information that has become available. The Department will post a copy of the contract and organizational conflicts of interest disclosures on the State Department website as soon as possible after redaction of any confidential business information.

    Access the release from Rep. Waxman and link to the complete 5-page letter (click here). Access the Federal Register announcement (click here). Access the State Department website for the project (click here). Access the TransCanada hosted project website (click here). Access archived documents (click here). [#Energy/PipelineXL]
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