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Keystone XL pipeline won't exacerbate climate change: State Department report

Keystone XL protesters
Bloomberg News

Just days after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address deflated environmentalists with his continuation of the “all of the above” energy plan that includes fracking and increased drilling, activists received more bad news Friday from a State Department report that denied completion of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline would significantly increase climate change.

Obama has vowed not to approve the project permit if it was found to exacerbate climate change.

Citing the fact that oil sands in Canada will be developed no matter what, so it should represent a minimal impact on the climate is seen by critics as simply inaccurate.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil,” said the report.

Saying the process of dirty tar sands extraction as not exacerbating climate change, because tons of carbon stands to be released by Canada anyway is simply conflating facts.

“The State Department's environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline is a farce. Since the beginning of the assessment, the oil industry has had a direct pipeline into the agency," said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica.

Politico’s Darren Goode pointed out that information on Keystone has been more available to the petroleum industry and Canadian newspapers than environmental organizations.

“Why in the world does Big Oil seem to know the findings of the State Department’s report before Congress and the American people do,” said John Sellers, co-founder of a group called the Other 98%. “Because this process has been corrupted by the money and power of Big Oil since the beginning.”

Republicans were quick to jump on the news, with Mitch McConnell (R-KY) saying the president should pick up the pen he likes so much and “make this happen.”

Although the report said Keystone would generate 42,000 jobs, critics respond they would be mostly temporary and is significantly less than 100,000 jobs the GOP has touted for years.

However, White House press secretary Jay Carney was quick to point out the Department’s Environmental Impact Statement “is only another step in the process.” Carney added, "These issues are complex — they require rigorous approach and assessments and that is what it is. The process is under way.”

There will also be a 90 comment period during which activists plan on rallying public support for blocking the pipeline.

“No matter what the SEIS says, it would be premature for either side to tear down the goalposts because there is still a long part of the game left to be played,” said Daniel J Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based research group opposed to the pipeline.

TransCanada reportedly applied for a permit on the Keystone project over five years ago, which would allow a pipeline to be built through the heartland of the US from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

“Five years, five federal reviews, dozens of public meetings, over a million comments and one conclusion ─ the Keystone XL pipeline is safe for the environment,” American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard said in a statement. “This final review puts to rest any credible concerns about the pipeline’s potential negative impact on the environment. This long awaited project should now be swiftly approved.”

The $5.4 billion plan estimates 830,000 barrels of crude per day capacity.

Secretary of State John Kerry has yet to weigh in with his stand on the project.

Releasing the State Department report on a Friday is seen by environmentalists as the State Department’s way of defusing the reaction.

Jay Carnery said President Obama has not indicated a timeline for making a decision.

A complete copy of the report is not available at this time.

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