State Department Finds "Few Environmental Risks" in Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline

The US State Department released today its finalized environmental review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) does little more than affirm the State Department’s preliminary findings that the 1700-mile-long pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Texas will pose  “limited adverse impacts” on the environment. The finding comes in spite of the fact that a branch of the Keystone pipeline already in operation has been riddled with leaks just in its first year of operation.

Tar Sand Destruction

The EIS release comes as hundreds of protestors have already been arrested (including one of Planetsave’s contributors) in an ongoing act of civil disobedience to raise awareness of the issue and convince president Obama to deny final permitting of the project. How Obama decides to act may be a lynchpin for future support from environmental groups and activists who, as founder Bill McKibben puts it, “want the guy from 2008 back.”

The state department contents that the EIS should not be regarded as a “go-ahead” for the project. Assistant Secretary of State for International Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones said the review “should not be seen as a lean in any one direction, either for or against the pipeline.”

Hogwash, say many environmental groups. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club characterized the EIS as an “insult to anyone who expects the government to work for the interests of the American people.”

National Wildlife Federation Senior Vice President Jim Lyon said the EIS was “strike three” after two previous State Department reviews also minimized the risks of the Keystone pipeline. “It is almost certain to be scrutinized in other venues, including a probable legal challenge,” he said.

But it isn’t just environmentalists opposing the project. Many residents along the pipeline’s proposed path are fighting the Keystone project.

It will ultimately come down to what president Obama decides to do later this year, and whether he will have the political courage and vision to oppose the forces pushing for expansion of what many see as an environmental catastrophe already in progress.

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