November 11, 2011
Administration Punts on Controversial Oil Pipeline
by Robert Kropp
The State Department's decision to review planned route through Nebraska is likely to put off a
final decision until 2013.
The US State Department announced this week that it has withdrawn its support for the construction
of a controversial pipeline, saying that a review of the route through Nebraska of the 1,700-mile
Keystone XL pipeline will delay a final decision until after next year's elections.
Officials in Nebraska have objected to the proposed route of the pipeline, which would
encroach upon the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of the state.
by TransCanada to build the pipeline, bringing heavy crude oil from Canadian oil sands to
refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast, has rallied environmental activists. Demonstrations over
the past several months have resulted in over 1,000 arrests; on November 6, 12,000 demonstrators
surrounded the White House, according to Tar Sands Action.
Described in a 2008 report as "the
most destructive project on Earth," oil sands extraction in Alberta, Canada leaks approximately
three million gallons of contaminated water into surrounding rivers and groundwater each day, in
addition to emitting unusually high levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Writing to the State Department last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated,
"We estimate that GHG emissions from Canadian oil sands crude would be approximately 82% greater
than the average crude refining in the US, on a well-to-time basis."
In a statement, President Obama indicated his support for the
State Department's decision.
"Because this permit decision could affect the health and
safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have
been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are
properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood," he said.
concerns that have been raised include the actions of the State Department itself, which had hired
a company with close financial ties to TransCanada to conduct an environmental impact study of the
$7 billion project. This week, the Department's inspector general announced it would conduct an
investigation into possible conflicts of interest. The State Department had allowed TransCanada to
choose the company for the study.
In response to the State Department's announcement, Bill
McKibben of Tar Sands Action wrote on the organization's web site, "The American people spoke
loudly about climate change and the president responded. There have been few even partial victories
about global warming in recent years so that makes this an important day."
way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world's
second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster," McKibben continued.