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Reviewing the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline: The More We Learn, the Worse It Looks

The State Department just released its draft environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would take tar sands from Canada to the US Gulf Coast for export. Past reviews severely underestimated the very serious harm to our climate, health, communities and water from the Keystone XL pipeline and expansion of tar sands extraction and refining.

We’ll be taking a hard look at this draft environmental review. And we know that the many people across the US and Canada who are concerned with tar sands expansion and the Keystone XL pipeline project will be weighing in to make their voices heard. 

What we already know from existing analysis is that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest. The pipeline means worsening climate change. Piping it through the US heartland would put our ranchers and farmers at risk from difficult to clean up oil spills. And sending it to the Gulf Coast only makes our country a dirty oil gateway to overseas markets. This is a project where multi-national oil companies reap in the benefits while US communities take the risks.


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My colleague Anthony Swift has already outlined here, the five necessary ingredients for an environmental review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Among other concerns, we need to see a thorough review of the ways in which the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will make climate change worse as described here by my colleague Danielle Droitsch. It is clear that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will drive expansion of the tar sands. With alternative pipeline proposals to the west and east coasts stalled due to public opposition and rail such a high cost option, Keystone XL remains the gateway to the higher prices of overseas markets for expensive tar sands.

At several key moments over the past months – election night, his Inauguration Address, and the State of the Union, President Obama has responded to widespread public concerns about the need to fight climate change with strong words calling for action. Action to fight climate change must include stopping dirty projects as well as putting clean energy alternatives into place. It is time for the US to draw a line and say no to dirty energy projects starting with the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz is the Director of the NRDC International Program in Washington, D.C.

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