Keystone XL is back in the news! Keystone XL, the controversial 1,900-mile pipeline carrying Canadian bitumen from Alberta to refineries as far south as Houston TX, passed another hurdle recently when an updated environmental report from the State Department found no new issues with the proposed pipeline since a similar report was issued last year.
Environmentalists have fought the production of Canada’s oil sands, citing the destructive nature of its production (primarily through strip mining) and the intensive amounts of energy required to extract the oil (known as bitumen) from the sand. They further argue that the corrosive nature of bitumen could eventually damage the proposed pipeline and increase the risks of a spill in areas where a major aquifer (the Ogallala) is most vulnerable to contamination.
Supporters of the project point out that Canada regulates its energy production, requires mitigation and reclamation costs to be included in development, and is a stable and reliable source of energy for the U.S. The proposed pipeline could significantly reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Moreover, the Canadian reserves are significant.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the international program directory for the Natural Resources Defense Council, claimed the report didn’t adequately address pipeline safety, including the risks posed to the Ogallala Aquifer. “If this round of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline environmental review is as superficial as it seems, the State Department will need to go back to the drawing board — perhaps the third time will be a charm and they will get it right,” she told the AP. A spokesman for TransCanada, the Calgary-based company behind the pipeline, said the company was pleased with the State Department’s report but declined to comment specifically.
Approval of the pipeline has been held up since the Environmental Protection Agency asked the State Department for the additional environmental report last summer. The State Department, which has authority over the pipeline since it crosses an international boundary, is expected to decide on approval of the pipeline by the end of the year.