Keystone XL Pipeline approval remains unclear

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July 2nd, 2013

Omaha, NE — After outlining his national climate action plan last week, many Nebraskans are eagerly awaiting President Obama’s final decision on whether to grant a permit to build the next phase of controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.
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In his address, the President said he would not approve the pipeline if he is convinced that it would cause an adverse effect on the environment.

President Obama will not approve the Keystone XL Pipeline if studies show that it will increase carbon emissions. (Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia)

President Obama will not approve the Keystone XL Pipeline if studies show that it will increase carbon emissions. (Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia)

“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s best interest,” he said.  “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Although recent studies like the one performed by the National Academy of Sciences concludes that “diluted bitumen does not have unique or extreme properties that make it more likely than other crude oils to cause internal damage to transmission pipelines from corrosion or erosion,”  many environmental  organizations are  still calling for an independent and unbiased study.

Bold Nebraska, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Oil Change International have banned together  combined forces and formally requested the U.S. State Department to take a more independent and unbiased look at the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We are calling on an independent review by independent scientists in order to have a proper climate assessment,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska.

Kleeb asserts that the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement was prepared by a member of the industry-financed American Petroleum Institute who was personally selected by TransCanada to prepare the report.

“Any American can look at that and say ‘Of course they’re not going to say there’s going to be an increase in greenhouse gas emissions because they belong to the oil industry,’” Kleeb said.

NRDC spokesman Josh Mogerman said there are a variety of reasons why the pipeline is a bad idea with increased carbon emissions being chief among them.

“We think any evaluation of this pipeline will make it clear that we are moving the dirtiest form of oil on the planet from a carbon perspective at huge amounts through this pipeline,” Mogerman said.  “It’s unavoidable that it would result in an increase in carbon pollution.”

Mogerman said people along the pipeline path have concerns about the impact tar sand oil  spills will have on their ranches,  on their property and on the valuable  water resources that all of Nebraska the Plaines, the Midwest and the entire nation relies on. Of particular concern are the massive Ogallala Aquifer as well as the Missouri River watershed’s streams and rivers.

“Ultimately we are at a turning point right now where we have to decide if we’re going to do something about climate or not,” Mogerman said. “Moving the pipeline through is not doing something about climate. It is short changing future generations and its shortsighted thinking.”

But supporters of the pipeline believe otherwise.

There have been three separate environmental impact statements (EIS) performed in Nebraska, according to Nebraska Second District Congressman Lee Terry. Each statement concluded the same thing—there will be no significant environmental impact.

CongressmanTerry said he supports building the pipeline across Nebraska. He is satisfied with the environmental studies that have been completed thus far to evaluate the safety of the pipeline and he is a strong proponent of the economic boost that constructing and maintaining the pipeline will have for all Nebraskans. He said state union workers have already been contracted to construct the pipeline across the state. Terry also notes that the pipeline will also pay property taxes to the counties it will travel through, which mean as much as a 50 percent increase in tax revenues for those counties and their schools.

“It’s important to our energy security and it’s a great economic stimulus,” Terry said. “It’s a $7 billion privately funded project that creates tens of thousands of construction jobs over a two year period and going back to No.1 it’s really important to our energy security to get off of OPEC oil.”

The American Petroleum Institute, the national trade group for the oil and natural gas industry, thinks it’s very much in the nation’s interest to continue to develop and encourage the country’s energy trading partnership with Canada.

API’s Midwest Manager John Kerekes testified in support of the pipeline during the U.S. State Department’s public hearing last April in Grand Island.

“Fossil fuel development is going to be very important for us to maintain our standard of living for the next several decades,” Kerekes said.  “TransCanada has pledged to work cooperatively with land owners. They have moved the pipeline twice in response to public and legislative concerns and we think they’re doing the right things.”

Yet, the biggest hurdle for supporters of the pipeline to overcome is securing final permission to build the pipeline from the  Obama administration.

“We think it’s important to get that product to market,” Kerekes said. “We need that oil. We think it’s time to make a decision. We think it’s time to say yes and get it built.”

CongressmanTerry said if President Obama’s decision is based on science and the environmental impact studies that have been conducted, he should sign the permit. Still others disagree.

“Rather than double done on the dirtiest most carbon intensive forms of energy we need to look at how to use less oil,”Mogerman said. “We need to get serious about advancing some of the American technologies that are going to move us to a cleaner energy economy.”

Supporters and opponents hope the President will reach his final decision before the end of the year.

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