Yesterday the EPA released its review of the Department of State’s final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline. The EPA’s comments were largely positive, which is saying something given the EPA’s recent partisan leanings. 

The EPA makes note of how thoroughly the State Department’s final SEIS addresses their previously brought up concerns, stating that “The Final SEIS is comprehensive and provides responses to our April 2013 comments on the Draft SEIS. We would like to especially point out the usefulness of the new compilation of all of the proposed mitigation measures.”

In Keystone’s favor, the comments recognized that the State Department has put serious consideration into oil spill prevention, preparedness, cleanup, and mitigation of damage. It also confirms Keystone as being accountable should any spills occur, and responsible for cleanup. According to the EPA: “The Department has also strengthened the analysis of oil spill prevention preparedness, response and mitigation and has committed to requiring numerous mitigation measures regarding leak prevention and detection, as well as spill cleanup measures. While risks of oil spills and adverse impacts remain, and spills of diluted bitumen can have different impacts than spills of conventional oil, the Department has included provisions to reduce those risks, including working with the state of Nebraska to develop an alternative route that avoids much of the Sand Hills region, and incorporating mitigation measures recommended by both the Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Administration and the independent engineering analysis. We note as particularly important the commitment by Keystone to be responsible for clean-up and restoration of groundwater as well as surface water in the event of a release or discharge of crude oil. These efforts will decrease the risk of spills and leaks, and provide for necessary remediation should spills occur. Nonetheless, the Final SEIS acknowledged that the proposed pipeline does present a risk of spills, which remains a concern for citizens and businesses relying on groundwater resources crossed by the route.”

Also in favor of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, the EPA makes note that the pipeline will result in fewer emissions than if Canadian crude is shipped by rail. “Based on that market analysis, the Final SETS concluded, in January of 2014, that if the Project were not approved, oil sands crude would be likely to reach the market some other way, most likely by rail. The Final SEIS acknowledged that the alternative of shipment by rail is more expensive than shipment by pipeline, and would therefore increase the costs of getting oil sands crude to market. 5 However, the Final SEIS concluded that given global oil prices projected at that time this difference in shipment costs would not affect development of oil sands, which would remain profitable even with the higher transportation costs of shipment by rail. Therefore, the Final SEIS concluded that although development of oil sands would lead to significant additional releases of greenhouse gasses, a decision not to grant the requested permit would likely not change that outcome, i.e., those significant greenhouse gas emissions would likely happen regardless of the decision on the proposed Project. This conclusion was based in large part on projections of the global price of oil.” 

The Keystone XL pipeline promises efficiency as well as 43,000 jobs for Americans in this currently unforgiving employment market. It’s high time for it to be approved.