US mulls 'supplemental' draft EIS for TransCanada's Keystone XL: Clinton
New York (Platts)--10Jan2011/640 pm EST/2340 GMT
The US State Department is signaling it could call for a "supplemental"
draft environmental impact statement of TransCanada's Keystone XL oil pipeline
project, a move one US senator hopes might prompt a review of the pipeline's
current route, a spokesman for US Senator Mike Johanns, Republican-Nebraska,
"We always knew that these options" of a supplemental draft EIS "were on
the table," Johanns spokesman Paul Donahue said in a phone interview Monday.
But "it was the first time they [the State Department] had made a specific
note about it," he said, refering to a recent letter from Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton to Johanns.
Donahue said that "hopefully" an alternative route for Keystone "would be
explored." Johanns and other lawmakers in 2010 stepped up opposition to the
pipeline, saying the route threatens a Nebraska watershed key to the state's
livestock and agricultural interests.
Johanns in November asked Clinton for a supplemental draft EIS to review
"additional pipeline entry points" into the US and consider a route "parallel
to the existing Keystone pipeline route" that "avoids the Sandhills region" in
The Keystone expansion would carry Western Canadian crude 1,959 miles
from Hardisty, Alberta, through Cushing, Oklahoma, to terminals in Nederland
and Port Arthur, Texas. The 36-inch diameter XL pipeline would cross through
the states of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
In the letter to Johanns's office late last week, Clinton said her office
is "currently reviewing public comments on the draft Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) and making edits to that document."
"We have not yet determined whether the next version of the EIS will be a
supplemental draft EIS or a final EIS," Clinton said, according to a copy of
the letter provided by Johanns, who received the letter January 6.
The State Department last April issued a draft EIS that said the Keystone
project would have "limited adverse environmental impacts" during its
construction and operation. It also said that if the line is not built, then
"[Western Canadian Select Blend] crude oil would likely be shipped to
countries outside of North America, which would require new infrastructure
that would result in environmental impacts at least as great as those of the
ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAD PANNED REPORT
Environmentalists criticized the report, saying there were new White
House guidelines pending that could affect how environmental impact reviews
ought to be conducted. Broader opposition to the pipeline began growing in the
aftermath of the BP oil spill in the US Gulf of Mexico.
TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said January 7 when contacted by a
reporter that he had not heard of a possible supplemental EIS. He said
TransCanada hoped to receive a Presidential Permit to proceed with the project
"by this summer," adding: "We haven't heard otherwise."
In a subsequent email Monday, Cunha said: "we submitted our application
back in 2008 and the State Department has spent over two years reviewing this
project. This includes spending hundreds of hours reviewing thousands of pages
of information which we have been supportive in providing."
TransCanada is "expecting the State Department to issue a Final EIS in
the first part of 2011," Cunha said.
Asked about the possible impact of a "supplemental" draft EIS, he later
said that "we've built contingencies into our construction plans and we expect
to be operational in 2013."
Johanns, in an interview last October, said he did not oppose the
pipeline or "tar sands oil." But TransCanada "could not have picked a more
environmentally sensitive area," he said, adding that the route traverses an
area with deep environmental value.
In her January letter, Clinton said: "I recognize that ensuring a
complete environmental review of the pipeline--including potential impacts on
the Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer--is an important issue for
you, your constituents, and the state of Nebraska.... We are carefully
considering your concerns as part of our meticulous environmental review,
consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act and Executive Order...
We have not made a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, and will not make one
until we complete all steps of our review process."
Paul Blackburn, a South Dakota-based lawyer for the regional
environmental law group Plains Justice, said in an email that if the agency
seeks a supplemental draft EIS, then construction "would likely be delayed by
at least a couple of months, depending on the extensiveness of the
State Department spokeswoman Kerry Humphrey said Monday that "no decision
has been made on whether a supplemental will be needed."
--Leslie Moore Mira, email@example.com
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