Log in to view your state's edition
You are not logged in
Bookmark and Share
April 24, 2013
EPA calls for more Keystone route analyses

The Keystone XL pipeline encountered a new bump in the road with EPA’s review of the Department of State’s draft supplemental environmental impact statement (DSEIS) for the project.  In a comment letter on the DSEIS, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) pointed out several major information gaps that prevent a full assessment of the environmental impact of the project. 

The DSEIS considers a new and shorter U.S. route for the pipeline that TransCanada proposed after its initial application for a Presidential Permit was denied by the administration.  The goal of the project is to transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada.  The Department of State may approve only those international projects that serve the national interest of the United .States.  TransCanada’s initial application was rejected primarily because the pipeline traversed the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region in Nebraska.  In a second application, the company proposed a shorter route that avoided the area. 

Enbridge experience

But in its comment, the OECA notes that the pipeline still crosses the Ogallala Aquifer.  The OECA agrees with many critics of the proposal that the diluted bitumen (dilbit) that would be transported through the 36-inch pipeline poses environmental risks beyond those associated with standard petroleum crude.  These include the tendency of dilbit to sink to the bottom of water bodies, making it difficult to find and recover.  The OECA notes that this is exactly what happened with the 2010 Enbridge spill of oil sands crude in Michigan.  According to the OECA, the DSEIS did not clearly acknowledge the potential that dilbit spill will sink and that traditional oil spill response may need to be supplemented with specialized actions. 

GHG emissions underestimated?

The OECA also expressed the following concerns:
  • The DSEIS may have underestimated the GHG emissions associated with the projected oil sands development.  The DSEIS indicated that emissions from the project could be 81 percent greater than emissions from development of average crude refined in the U.S. on a well-to-tank basis and 17 percent greater on a well-to-wheels basis.  The OECA believes the differences may be even greater depending on the assumptions made.
  • The DSEIS’s conclusion that production of oil sands crude will occur whether or not the Presidential Permit is granted needs further analysis.  For example, the DSEIS indicates that oil sands crude will likely be transported by rail even if the pipeline is not built.  The OECA believes that the market analysis of rail transport options in the DSEIS did not recognize the potentially much higher per- barrel rail shipment costs.
  • The DSEIS does not provide a detailed analysis of alternative routes.  According to the OECA, the DSEIS indicates that alternative routes are not reasonable but does not provide an analysis of their potential impacts to enable a meaningful comparison of the proposed route and the alternatives.  Moreover, the OECA states that it indicated in the past that the EPA believes these alternative routes could further reduce risks to groundwater resources and now recommends that the final EIS either provide more detailed information as to why these alternatives were not considered reasonable or analyze these alternatives in more detail.

Ultimately, under the scale the EPA uses to grade EISs of this type, the OECA rated the DSEIS as an “EO-2 – Environmental Objections – Insufficient Information.”

Click here for OECA’s comment letter. 

Twitter   Facebook   Linked In
Follow Us