Keystone XL pipeline debate heats up


WASHINGTON – Debate over construction of the Keystone XL pipeline intensified Friday as the State Department delivered its final environmental assessment saying the plan would not have much impact on global greenhouse gas emissions.

The release of the report drew immediate calls from congressional proponents for President Obama to finally sign off on construction of the northern section of the pipeline between Canada and Texas.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer. Let’s build the Keystone Pipeline so we can ensure our future energy security and create jobs here at home,” said Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

“Modern American pipelines are indisputably the safest way to move the energy resources we all need daily — many times safer than trucks or trains, as shown recently by derailments that resulted in the loss of human life. President Obama and Secretary Kerry should do the right thing for our workers and our environment and let Keystone be built,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock.

“The president is running out of excuses to delay approving the northern leg of this project that would bring good jobs to America. For over five years the administration has delayed and stalled this major private-sector investment in our economy, in job creation and in reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Enough is enough,” said Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville.

Obama blocked construction in January 2012 but a final decision on the project has yet to be made. In the meantime, about 500 miles of steel pipe manufactured for the project has been stored in Little Rock at Welspun.

The proposed $7 billion pipeline would stretch from oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska. Existing pipelines would then carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries in Texas.

The 485-mile southern section of the pipeline operated by Calgary-based TransCanada did not require presidential approval because it does not cross a U.S. border.

With the final environmental impact statement now in hand, Secretary of State John Kerry must now decide whether the project meets the test of the president’s broader climate strategy. During his State of the Union Address, Obama did not mention the Keystone Pipeline. He reiterated his commitment to promote all sources of energy — oil, gas, wind, solar and biofuel — but recognized, too, that action is needed to reduce manmade contributions to climate change.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which has opposed the pipeline construction, issued a statement saying the report for the first time acknowledges that it would accelerate climate change.

“President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, international program director of NRDC. “Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest.”