Monday, April 18, 2011

U.S. State Department says no new issues in Keystone XL pipeline study

WASHINGTON - The U.S. State Department said on April 15 that a new environmental study of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas shows no new issues since a similar report was issued last year.

The additional review supports the conclusions reached in agency's first analysis of TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which said there would be limited adverse environmental impacts from the project.

The department's supplemental review included a more in-depth evaluation of the greenhouse gas consequences of the project, an issue the EPA said did not receive adequate attention in the initial version released April last year.

"It is clear that (oil sands derived) crude oils, as would likely be transported through the proposed project, are on average somewhat more GHG-intensive than the crudes they would displace in the U.S. refineries," the supplemental review said.

The department said the difference between oil sands crude and traditional fuels would decrease over time, as more oil required energy-intensive methods of extraction.

The report on the proposed $7 billion, 1,900-mile pipeline Keystone XL pipeline, comes as President Barack Obama offered his first public comments on the project, which would carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada, to refineries in Texas.

At a town hall meeting on energy on April 6, Obama said concerns about the potentially "destructive" nature of the Canadian oil sands need to be answered before his administration decides whether to approve a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline planned by Calgary-based TransCanada would travel through six U.S. states, carrying what environmental groups call "dirty oil," because of the intensive energy needed to extract crude from formations of sand, clay and water.

The project would double the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada, and supporters say it could significantly reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil. The pipeline would travel through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma before reaching refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.

Obama used the phrase "tar sands" - the term favored by environmentalists - to describe the bitumen deposits embedded in Alberta, Canada, sands, but refused to offer an opinion about whether the pipeline should be approved.

"These tar sands, there are some environmental questions about how destructive they are, potentially, what are the dangers there, and we've got to examine all those questions," Obama said at the April 6 town-hall meeting in Pennsylvania.

Obama said he could not comment on the specifics of the Keystone XL pipeline, because the State Department is going through a complicated review process, "and if it looks like I'm putting my fingers on the scale before the science is done, then people may question the merits of the decision later on."

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