WASHINGTON — A long-awaited assessment of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline by the State Department made no specific recommendation on the project, cheering oil companies and outraging environmentalists.
The draft analysis, which will begin a public comment period on the pipeline, examined the revised route TransCanada proposed after President Barack Obama blocked an original path amid concerns it posed a threat to an aquifer in Nebraska.
The State Department draft analysis doesn’t make a recommendation on whether the pipeline should be approved or not. It instead points to ways in which the pipeline could impact the environment.
“We’re looking for feedback now from the public to help us shape this going forward,” Kerri-Ann Jones, State’s assistant secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, told reporters in a conference call Friday.
The analysis said that while oil sands mining releases more greenhouse gases, “the project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude refined in the Gulf Coast area.”
Production of the tar sands would take place even without the pipeline, the report concluded.
Environmental groups such as Sierra Club and 350.org called the State Department’s analysis incomplete, and warned that building the pipeline would exacerbate global warming.
Environmentalists oppose the pipeline because they say it will exacerbate climate-change risks by promoting mining of Alberta’s oil sands, which they said will release more carbon dioxide than conventional drilling.
“There is a direct link between Keystone XL and expansion of the tar sands,” Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of international programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview. “There are no alternatives for the pipeline either to the west coast or to the east coast. The oil industry wants those overseas markets. Without that we see projects being postponed or put on hold.’
Oil and gas producers say the project proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada will create thousands of jobs and boost U.S. energy security.
”No matter how many times KXL is reviewed, the result is the same: no significant environmental impact,” said Marty Durbin, executive vice president for the American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based group whose members include Exxon Mobil Corp. ”The latest impact statement from the State Department puts this important, job-creating project one step closer to reality.”
Bill Day, a San Antonio-based spokesman for Valero Energy Corp., the world’s largest independent refinery by capacity, said he believed the pipeline would be approved after reading the analysis.
”Nothing that has come out in this report or any of the others would be reason for even this delay, let alone a denial,” Day said in an interview.
A final decision on the pipeline won’t come until later this year.