EPA_800pxThe Environmental Protection Agency has given a rating of EO-2 (“Environmental Objections – Insufficient Information”) to the State Department’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. EPA’s critical review raises multiple issues, including questioning the Draft SEIS’s discussion of the implications of the pipeline for emissions of greenhouse gases, and its economic analysis of rail as an alternative to the pipeline. If the State Department addresses the EPA concerns fully, there is much still to be done before the impact statement can be finalized.

Climate Progress posted this on the EPA review comments: EPA Slams State’s Draft Impact Statement For Keystone XL

Our comments: Climate Science Watch Comments to the State Dept on the Keystone XL pipeline Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

Excerpts from EPA’s review comments to the State Department (see the full text for discussion of multiple issues):

In accordance with our authorities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 309 of the Clean Air Act, EPA has reviewed the Department of State’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) for a Presidential Permit application by TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP (TransCanada) to construct and operate the Keystone XL Project (Project). …

NEPA serves an important role in the decision making process for federal actions that may have environmental effects. Through the NEPA process, federal agencies disclose and analyze the potential impacts of a proposed action and reasonable alternatives, as well as measures that could mitigate any potential harmful effects. NEPA brings transparency to the federal decision making process, requiring that other federal, state, tribal and local agencies, as well as citizens, are given a meaningful opportunity to provide comments, helping to ensure federal decisions are better informed. …

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

As recognized by the DSEIS, oil sands crude is significantly more GHG intensive than other crudes, and therefore has potentially large climate impacts. … To place this difference in context, we recommend using monetized estimates of the social cost of the GHG emissions from a barrel of oil sands crude compared to average U.S. crude. If GHG intensity of oil sands crude is not reduced, over a 50 year period the additional CO2-e [carbon dioxide equivalent] from oil sands crude transported by the pipeline could be as much as 935 million metric tons. It is this difference in GHG intensity – between oil sands and other crudes – that is a major focus of the public debate about the climate impacts of oil sands crude.

Although the DSEIS describes the GHG intensity of oil sands crude, the DSEIS nevertheless concludes that regardless of whether the Project permit is approved, projected oil sands production will remain substantially unchanged. This conclusion is based on an analysis of crude oil markets and projections of oil sands crude development, including the potential for other means of transport to bring oil sands crude to market. One of the alternative transport possibilities discussed in the DSEIS is the potential construction of other pipelines. As part of this discussion, the DSEIS appropriately recognizes that there is uncertainty about when, if ever, additional pipelines will be built. In light of these uncertainties, the DSEIS examines options for transporting oil sands crude by rail, and concludes that scaling up transport by rail is logistically and economically feasible, and that market forces will result in additional rail transport of oil sands crude if the Project is not built. It is this finding that supports the DSEIS’ overall conclusion that approval of the permit will not by itself substantially affect GHG emissions or contribute to climate change.

The market analysis and the conclusion that oil sands crude will find a way to market with or without the Project is the central finding that supports the DSEIS’s conclusions regarding the Project’s potential GHG emissions impacts. Because the market analysis is so central to this key conclusion, we think it is important that it be as complete and accurate as possible. We note that the discussion in the DSEIS regarding energy markets, while informative, is not based on an updated energy-economic modeling effort. The DSEIS includes a discussion of rail logistics and the potential growth of rail as a transport option, however we recommend that the Final EIS provide a more careful review of the market analysis and rail transport options. This analysis should include further investigation of rail capacity and costs, recognizing the potential for much higher per barrel rail shipment costs than presented in the DSEIS. This analysis should consider how the level and pace of oil sands crude production might be affected by higher transportation costs and the potential for congestion impacts to slow rail transport of crude. …


Based on our review, we have rated the DSEIS as EO-2 (“Environmental Objections – Insufficient Information”) (see enclosed “Summary of Rating Defmitions and Follow-up Actions”). …

EO–Environmental Objections

The EPA review has identified significant environmental impacts that must be avoided in order to provide adequate protection for the environment. Corrective measures may require substantial changes to the preferred alternative or consideration of some other project alternative (including the no action alternative or a new alternative). EPA intends to work with the lead agency to reduce these impacts. …

Category 2–lnsufficient Information

The draft EIS does not contain sufficient information for EPA to fully assess environmental impacts that should be avoided in order to fully protect the environment, or the EPA reviewer has identified new reasonably available alternatives that are within the spectrum of alternatives analyzed in the draft EIS, which could reduce the environmental impacts of the action. The identified additional information, data, analyses, or discussion should be included in the final EIS.

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Earlier posts:

Lisa Jackson EPA resignation a refusal to support Obama Keystone XL pipeline decision?

On Obama’s nominees for EPA Administrator and Secretary of Energy