A long-awaited State Department review has raised no serious environmental objections to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, potentially setting the stage for President Obama to approve the massive, politically charged project and dealing a blow to environmentalists who vehemently oppose it.
The lengthy Environmental Impact Study, the final version of which was released Friday afternoon, determined that the Canada-to-Texas pipeline will have little or no bearing on the overall crude oil market in North America. In other words, the report found that greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to change significantly if the pipeline is built, since Canada will surely continue to exploit the oil sands from Alberta and move the fuel to market even if the project is denied.
With that conclusion, analysts say the study takes away a key argument from environmentalists who have made Keystone a symbol in their larger fight against fossil fuels and believe Mr. Obama’s legacy on climate change is linked to whether he signs off on the pipeline.
“Most of the opposition hinged on this environmental piece. Now that that has been debunked, it’s much harder for Keystone opponents to raise credible arguments against the project,” said Brigham McCown, former administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
State Department officials, however, cautioned against reading too much into the report. It does not offer a final recommendation of whether Keystone is in the “national interest,” the key equation that encompasses not only carbon emissions and environmental concerns but also the jobs the project will create, the national security benefits of getting more fuel from Canada rather than the Middle East and other factors.
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