Waxman criticizes DOS pipeline review process

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 7 -- The US Department of State has not analyzed the most significant environmental impacts of a proposed crude oil pipeline from Canada and is conducting its review of the project’s application for a cross-border permit badly, US House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said.

“The State Department’s decision on whether to permit this pipeline represents a critical choice about America’s future,” he said in a July 6 letter to Sec. of State Hillary R. Clinton. “This pipeline is a multibillion dollar investment to expand our reliance on the dirtiest source of transportation fuel currently available. While I strongly support the president’s efforts to move America to a clean energy economy, I am concerned that the Keystone XL pipeline would be a step in the wrong direction.”

DOS is expected to rule on July 16 on whether the 1,661-mile, 36-in. system would extend from Hardesty, Alta., to refineries along the US Gulf Coast is in the nation’s best interest. Waxman and environmental organizations oppose the project because the oil it would transport would come from Canadian oil sands. Recovering and processing bitumen from those deposits would produce substantial amounts of carbon dioxide, they contend.

Supporters of the proposed project, which is sponsored by TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., say that it will provide the US significant oil supplies from a reliable and friendly source and reduce imports from other foreign producers.

“This pipeline would roughly double the quantity of tar sands fuel currently being imported, and in conjunction with two previously permitted tar sands that are not yet in full operation—Keystone and Alberta Clipper—would more than triple the quantity of tar sands fuel imported to the United States,” said Waxman.

“The cumulative effect of the three tar sands pipelines would be to increase tar sands imports to over 3 million b/d,” he maintained. “To process this large increase in tar sands imports, US refineries will invest billions of dollars more in refinery upgrades.”

Waxman told Clinton that he is concerned that the project would have a major impact on the carbon intensity of US transportation fuel. He also suggested that the environmental impact statement that DOS developed does not discuss the project’s potential global warming impacts, and that the process being used to arrive at a national interest decision is not giving other federal agencies enough time to comment.

Environmental activists, elected officials, and other opponents plan to hold a news conference and silent protest on July 8 in front of the Canadian Consulate in New York City, OGJ has learned.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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