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Activists Dismayed by State Dept’s Environmental Assessment of Keystone XL

Draft report released today says pipleline will have little impact on tar sands oil extraction

In a standard beltway move to duck the weekday news cycle when it comes to controversial reports, the US State Department released its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline’s route late on Friday — on a day when most media outlets are focusing on the sequestration cuts.

photoname Photo by tarsandsactionThe report comes just weeks after some 35,000 people converged in Washington, D.C.
to urge President Obama to reject the controversial pipeline.

The report evaluates the new application for Keystone XL submitted by TransCanada in May 2012, after President Obama denied the original application following immense pressure from environmentalists. The new application for the pipeline — that would transport heavy crude from the tar sands mines of Alberta, Canada to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico — proposes a route that would avoid Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region.

The executive summary of the report that’s now up online (the full report is some 2,000 pages long seems to indicate that though the project would disturb about 15,493 acres of land and could impact 11 endangered species, and transport one of the most dirty fossil fuels ever produced, it’s environmental impact is not going to be catastrophical. The key sentence in the summary that pretty much sums this up (and is being quoted everywhere):

 “the draft Supplemental EIS 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.”

Which basically translates to, whether the pipeline will have little impact on net carbon emissions since one way or the other, tar sands oil will continue to be sucked out and burned.

Needless to say, environmental groups are dismayed by the report, that comes just weeks after about 35,000 people converged in Washington, D.C. to urge President Obama to reject the pipeline that has also become symbolic of the hurdles facing US climate policy. They say the SEIS doesn’t consider fully the impact the pipeline would have on the US environment and public health.

The commentary and analysis is sure to develop more nuance over the next few days. But for now, here’s a brief compilation of reactions from some of the key activists fighting the pipeline:

"We're hearing the same rehashed arguments from the State Dept about why a great threat to …more

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