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State Department’s Keystone XL Pipeline Impacts Analysis Slammed as Inadequate

Proposed tar sands oil pipeline’s impacts minimized by administration even as hundreds stage White House sit-in urging President Obama to say ‘no’

WASHINGTON - An Environmental Impact Statement for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline was slammed by experts today shortly after its release by the U.S. State Department.

“Whether to approve this pipeline is the most important environmental decision President Obama will make before the election,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “If he sides with greedy oil companies instead of people and the climate, he will essentially be urging a huge part of his base to sit out the election. With this supposedly final review of the pipeline’s environmental impacts, the State Department has let him down by once again trying to sweep the serious dangers posed under the rug.”

At the same time, dozens more Americans were braving arrest at the White House to call on President Obama to reject the pipeline. The series of sit-ins builds upon opposition to the project registered by hundreds of thousands of Americans in public comments to the Obama administration.

Friends of the Earth’s initial analysis is that the State Department’s updated environmental impact review failed to acknowledge the true extent of the project’s threats to the climate, to drinking water and to the health of people who would breathe polluted air from refineries processing the dirty tar sands oil, among other glaring oversights. The organization asserted that such omissions would place any future Obama administration decision to approve the pipeline in legal jeopardy.

“The ranchers, nurses, farmers and other Americans fighting to protect their communities from the disastrous impacts of tar sands oil have had their concerns fall on deaf ears at the State Department, but ultimately, responsibility for this decision rests with President Obama,” added Pica.

The State Department has issued two previous draft environmental reviews, which the Environmental Protection Agency categorized respectively as “inadequate” and “insufficient,” warning that an inadequate environmental impact statement would be cause for referral to the Council on Environmental Quality at the White House.

The State Department’s review also appeared to downplay mounting concerns about the risks of spills from the pipeline, which would carry a form of tar sands oil that experts say is more corrosive and toxic. A University of Nebraska professor’s independent study, released in July, showed that the Keystone XL could spill far more frequently than admitted by TransCanada and, in a worst-case scenario, pollute billions of gallons of water with dangerous carcinogens and other pollutants. However, the Environmental Impact Statement does not seriously address the concerns this independent analysis raised.

“The State Department asserts that the pipeline’s impacts would be limited, but in truth the only thing ‘limited’ here is the scope and substance of the State Department analysis, which appears to fall far short of the standards required under the law,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy project director at Friends of the Earth.

In releasing the Environmental Impact Statement, the State Department announced a schedule for hearings in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, D.C. The hearings are part of a 90-day period for public and interagency input into the Obama administration’s decision on whether the tar sands oil pipeline is in the “national interest.”

The Environmental Impact Statement is available at:


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