Today the U.S. State Department announced its decision to proceed with the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, stating that the benefits of importing oil from a friendly neighbor outweighed the potential environmental costs.
The Keystone XL is a 1,711-mile pipeline that will transport crude oil from the Canadian tar sands across the Great Plains to refineries on the Gulf Coast. In its final environmental impact statement (EIS) the State Department admitted that “throughout its life cycle, oil sands crude is, on average, more greenhouse gas intensive than the crude oil it would replace in the U.S,” but said that the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada, had reduced the risks of an accident to an acceptable level.
Opponents of the pipeline, including the almost 400 protesters arrested during a sit-in in Washington D.C. this week, say that rather than move America toward energy independence, this project will only prolong the nation’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels and put waterways, soil and many species of wildlife at risk in the process.
The EIS also estimated the frequency of oil spills of any size to be between 1.78 to 2.51 spills per year. But according to the National Response Center, the existing Keystone I pipeline (which the Keystone XL project with extend) experienced a dozen spills during its first year of operation, including the May 7th spill of more than 400 barrels (some 16,800 gallons) in North Dakota.
“The U.S. State Department’s final report on the Keystone XL today is an insult to anyone who expects government to work for the interests of the American people,” said the Sierra Club in a press release this morning. “The Sierra Club and our 1.4 million members and supporters are looking to President Obama for bold action and we urge him to reject this abomination.”
Environmental author Bill McKibben, who is spearheading the D.C. protests, said that the release of the State Department EIS would not dampen the spirits of the 2,000 Americans who will participate in the Tar Sands Action.
“We knew from past experience that State might do something like this, which is why we’ve always said it’s going to be Obama’s call,” said McKibben. “They can’t get the climate science right, but maybe they can get the politics right.”
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Image Credit: tarsandsaction.org