Foreign Policy Blogs

State Department Says XL Pipeline Won’t Affect Oil Sands Development

Oil Sands

The Department of State has released a 2000-page draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement regarding the XL Keystone Pipeline. In the words of the executive summary, the report “concludes that approval or denial of the proposed Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.” The report is not what environmentalists wanted, although it pleases those in the oil business

There is now a 45-day period for public comment, and anyone with anything to say can email their statements to [email protected]. Once the comment period is over, the final decision will be President Obama’s. And judging from the way the interested parties are talking, he will approve it.

TransCanada, the pipeline company, is operating as if the approval is almost a formality. The same day the State Department issues its report, Paul Miller, TransCanada’s senior vice president in charge of oil pipelines, told reporters his firm will get the needed permits by the “first half of 2013.” He added, “We’re talking to refiners today, stakeholders today, producers today, to see what the market wants.”

Alberta Premier Alison Redford, a conservative, has plans to visit Washington in the coming weeks.  Her office issued a statement that read, “On behalf of the people of Alberta, I welcome further progress towards a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline….As I have said many times before, we respect the U.S. decision-making process and fully expect the President’s final decision will be extremely well thought out and based on science and fact.”

In Nebraska, where the pipeline will run, Republican Governor Dave Heineman has approved a new route for the pipeline, which avoids most of the Ogallala aquifer. It was fear of of a pipeline leak polluting the aquifer that led the Obama administration to reject an earlier application to build the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the environmentalist lobby is circling the wagons. The Huffington Post ran this “’What happens if you’ve got the Obama pipeline — now it’s the Obama pipeline — and it leaks?’ asked activist and former White House adviser Van Jones on CNN Friday. ‘His legacy could be the worst oil disaster in American farmland history.'”

And it also ran, “If Keystone XL gets built, it will be known as Obama’s dirty pipeline,” said Jamie Henn, a spokesman for climate advocacy group “This fight has sent more people to jail and put more people in the streets than any other environmental issue in recent memory. No amount of half-measures or technical regulations could repair Obama’s environmental legacy if he approves Keystone XL.”

Judging from what these interested parties are saying and doing, and based on my reading of the executive summary (not even your fearless FPA blogger could read the whole thing in a few days), the pipeline is going to happen, and the oil will flow sometime in 2014.

  • mscoyote

    Now we have Exxon’s break and catastrophic spill last week. The problem is one of prioritizing profits over public safety and unwillingness to bear the true cost of doing it right. The only math going on here in the corporate mind is the cost of prevention vs the cost of accident vs the profit sheet. There is always a best and will work to sufficiently mitigate the risk technology that can be used to argue why it’s OK to let these projects go ahead, but it is never effectively implemented by the oil giants because their number one priority is making money and preventing accidents is way off the end of their priority list. The only way to control the problem is through public legislation that give a voice to those who have to bear the cost of their irresponsible behavior. Whether it’s spills or dumping more pollution into the atmosphere, they will continue to poison and endanger the public and their employees it in pursuit of their holy grail – corporate profits. Laws prohibiting high risk behavior are the only way to keep any control. Anyone working for a corporation gets this because we have it pounded into our heads by the management every day. Would be good if the general public figured it out. We could have reasonably safe nuclear power and we could move and burn oil with minimal impact if anyone was willing to pay for the existing technology to do so. It will only happen when the public and their representatives decide it’s important. Today, greed rules.


Jeff Myhre
Jeff Myhre

Jeff Myhre is a graduate of the University of Colorado where he double majored in history and international affairs. He earned his PhD at the London School of Economics in international relations, and his dissertation was published by Westview Press under the title The Antarctic Treaty System: Politics, Law and Diplomacy. He is the founder of The Kensington Review, an online journal of commentary launched in 2002 which discusses politics, economics and social developments. He has written on European politics, international finance, and energy and resource issues in numerous publications and for such private entities as Lloyd's of London Press and Moody's Investors Service. He is a member of both the Foreign Policy Association and the World Policy Institute.