On June 25, one day after the group letter, President Obama said in his speech announcing his Climate Action Plan [See WIMS 6/26/13], "Now, I know there's been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That's how it's always been done. But I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It's relevant."
Doug Hayes, Sierra Club attorney said, "Since the close of the comment period, evidence of inaccuracies and bias in the State Department's review of Keystone XL has been steadily mounting. This new information demonstrates that the review relies on an overly-simplistic, outdated view of a rapidly-changing oil market." The groups said the new data contradicts three primary conclusions by the State Department: that increased rail shipments of crude oil have the potential to completely replace the capacity of Keystone XL if the pipeline were rejected; that increasing domestic production of oil will not affect the demand for heavy Canadian crude oil in Gulf Coast refineries; and that Canadian crude will not be exported from the Gulf Coast if the pipeline is built.
Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International and coauthor of the letter said, "The State Department is alone in its conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline is not fundamental to the prospects of the dirty tar sands industry. State needs to take a careful look at the new evidence that we've compiled in the past several weeks and they will reach the same conclusion that we do: that the Keystone XL pipeline is crucial to the expansion of the tar sands, and that expansion is not in the public interest."
The groups cited evidence that Keystone XL is the lynchpin for tar sands development which they detailed in the letter including: A Goldman Sachs report that says that rail shipments of tar sands could not replace the proposed pipeline logistically and economically [See WIMS 6/11/13]; Royal Bank of Canada's estimate that denial of Keystone XL would jeopardize $9.4 billion in tar sand development; and U.S. EPA estimates that Keystone XL will add 18.7 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year. And a new U.S. government report increases the estimated social cost of this pollution -- related to human health, sea level rise and other natural disasters -- by as much as double.
Anthony Swift, NRDC attorney said, "This recent information paints a clear picture. The Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline would significantly increase climate emissions while providing few benefits to the United States -- it really is an all risk and no reward proposition for the American people." According to the groups, the State Department is obliged by federal law to analyze and respond to this new data.
The groups' 54-page communication to the State Department resembles a legal brief and includes multiple linked citations to extensive referenced information and documentation. The communication concludes, "The significant new information highlighted in this letter is directly relevant to the environmental impacts of Keystone XL, because it casts further doubt on the DSEIS's [Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement] conclusion that Keystone XL will have no impact on the rate of tar sands development. The North American oil market is undergoing massive changes at a very rapid pace, and evidence contradicting the analysis contained in the DSEIS is becoming available on near-weekly basis. It is crucial that the Department of State consider this new information if it is to make an accurate assessment Keystone XL's impacts. Therefore, we respectfully request that the Department of State prepare a supplement to its DSEIS based on significant new information pursuant to 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9."