Secretary of State John Kerry promised a “transparent” assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline, and now the State Department has delivered on that promise – with a transparently fraudulent “environmental impact statement” which, according one critic, “makes no mention of the [pipeline’s] impact on the world’s climate.”
After meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on February 8, 2013, Kerry made his first public comments as Secretary of State about the pipeline then under review by his department. He said, in response to a question about the review: “I can guarantee you that it will be fair and transparent, accountable, and we hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near term.”
Environmentalist opponents of Keystone XL warned for years, as anyone attentive to the issue would know, that the development of tar sands oil in Canada will increase greenhouse gas emissions beyond the point where there is any hope of mitigating climate change. Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline would not, in itself, control tar sands development. But permitting it would mean losing control.
In evaluating the Keystone project, one of the challenges the State Department faced was credibly assessing what effect the pipeline’s operation – or more precisely the effect of burning billions of gallons of the world’s dirtiest oil over a period of 30 years or more would have on the global climate.
The first signal that the State Department report would be bad news for the climate was that it was released on March 1, on a Friday afternoon, a time when news media are often at their least attentive.
Why Would Government Ignore Impact on Climate?
Two days after the release of the report, investigative historian Eric Zuesse wrote: “The study does discuss ‘Climate Change Impacts on the Proposed Project,’ but not the proposed project’s impacts on climate change. It finds that climate change will have no significant impact upon either the construction, or the operation, of the Pipeline.”
The State Department’s environmental impact statement, executive summary section ES.5.5, tiptoes up to the critical question of tar sands oil development:
“Finally, climate change considerations—which are influenced by GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions—could affect the construction and operation of the proposed Project. GHG and climate change issues were the subject of many comments
received during the public scoping process for the proposed Project.”
But there the analysis stops, like a shell game in which none of the shells conceal a pea.
The State Department statement (section E.S.5.5.2) concludes “that approval or denial of the proposes [Keystone] Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.”
In other words, even if there were a pea under one of the shells, there’s nothing to be done about it.
The State Department’s analysis finds that there will be little impact on air quality or noise (sections 3.12 and 4.12) from the construction or operation of the pipeline. Even better (section 4.14), the “impact of climate change effects… on the construction and operation of the proposed Project itself” are virtually nil.
As the summary section (4.16) puts it:
- Climate change would have no substantive effects on construction of the proposed Project.
- Climate change would have no substantive effects on the operation of the proposed Project….
Environmentalists React With Outrage, Disbelief
So the Project, the Keystone XL pipeline, may be safe from climate change, but the State Department has nothing to say about whether the climate is safe from the Project.
The day the report came out, Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune released a statement that said:
“The Sierra Club is outraged by the State Department’s deeply flawed analysis today and what can only be interpreted as lip service to one of the greatest threats to our children’s future: climate disruption.
“We’re mystified as to how the State Department can acknowledge the negative effects of the Earth’s dirtiest oil on our climate, but at the same time claim that the proposed pipeline will ‘not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects.’ Whether this failure was willful or accidental, this report is nothing short of malpractice.”
A much longer objection came from Bold Nebraska’s executive director Jane Kleeb who argues against the State Department analysis:
“Tarsands does not expand unless Keystone XL is built. The State Department’s assumption that tarsands development does not change with or without this pipeline is wrong and laughable. Why would TransCanada spend billions on building the pipeline and millions on lobbying unless this piece of infrastructure is the–not a–but the lynchpin for the expansion of tarsands.
“Without this pipeline Canada stays at 2 million barrels a day, with it they get 3 million barrels a day. The President has the ability to keep a million barrels of tarsands in the ground a day. With a stroke of a pen he can protect property rights, water and make a dent in climate change. This report is laughable using the wrong assumption and therefore the wrong science.”
The public will have 45 days to comment on the environmental impact report, once the State Department posts a notice in the Federal Register. As the Department’s March 1 cover letter states:
“As part of the Department’s process, members of the public, public agencies, and other interested parties are encouraged to submit comments, questions, and concerns about the project via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org , at http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov , or mailed to:
U.S. Department of State
Attn: Genevieve Walker, NEPA Coordinator
2201 C Street NW, Room 2726
Washington, D.C. 20520
The letter further explains: “Ultimately, a determination will be made on whether this project serves the national interest. The national interest determination will involve consideration of many factors, including: energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy; and compliance with relevant federal regulations.”
There is no reference to any global interest or any other interest.
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