A preliminary report prepared for the State Department sees little environmental threat from the Keystone XL pipeline.
The report also suggests the United States could meet its energy needs without the pipeline by using the growth in rail transport of oil.
The analysis will be used by the State Department in its advice to President Obama on whether to grant TransCanada a permit to cross the Canadian-United States border and complete the $7 billion, 1,700 mile oil pipeline from western Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas.
The report is nearly 2,000 pages long. It will be subject to a 45-day public comment period, beginning next Friday when it is officially published in the Federal Register. The State Department will respond to comments before it makes final its environmental impact statement. The State Department also must determine whether Keystone XL is in the national interest.
TransCanada first applied for a permit in September of 2008. The project ran into intense opposition in Nebraska, sparking a special legislative session in 2011 in which TransCanada agreed to move the pipeline.
A section of the report states that, “The analyses of potential impacts associated with construction and normal operation of the proposed Project suggest that there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed Project route..” assuming TransCanada follows existing environmental regulations.
The report concedes pipeline leaks “could potentially impact groundwater where the overlying soils are permeable and the depth to groundwater is shallow.” A large crude oil pipeline leak into the Ogallala Aquifer “could result in oil spreading on the water table as far as 1,214 feet, and dissolved components of the oil, such as benzene, could spread as much as an additional 1,050 feet.”
The report also states that releases of crude oil could also impact rivers, lakes, and ponds as well as the ecosystems that rely on them with the analysis suggesting “that crude oil releases that do reach surface waters are expected to be no greater than 1,214 feet from the release point; however, releases to a river will not float on water indefinitely and have the potential to be submerged introducing additional potential impacts and recovery challenges.”
Click here for a link to the State Department Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement