Keystone XL: Haste And Inexperience Hampered State Department’s Environmental Review

From The Huffington Post:

Joshua Hersh

Earlier this year, top officials with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of Justice hauled a handful of senior State Department officials into a White House meeting.

The gathering was the governmental equivalent of being called into the principal’s office. The energy regulators wanted to know why State — which had the power to approve a controversial oil pipeline project called Keystone XL — hadn’t demanded the completion of an important task: the evaluation of alternative pipeline routes between Canada and the Gulf Coast that would avoid the Nebraska sand hills, a hotbed of environmental concern and local outrage.

A Canadian company, TransCanada, planned to use Keystone to deliver “tar sands” crude through the American heartland and — as with nearly every major interstate infrastructure project — the pipeline’s approval hinged on its ability to pass an environmental review. Because this pipeline crossed an international border, oversight for that process fell to State.

Environmental groups and other government agencies had already panned the first draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that the State Department had produced, nearly a year earlier. Now State, under fire for its handling of Keystone XL, hoped to mollify the pipeline’s critics by issuing a rare supplemental draft of the review.

But as word of the new study spread to the other agencies, according to a person familiar with the White House meeting, it became apparent that the review wouldn’t propose any serious alternative routes for the pipeline. Gathered at the offices of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, the energy regulators attempted to strong-arm State into ordering such a study, despite the fact that it would likely cost several million dollars and delay the project another year.

State listened politely to the regulators’ concerns and just as politely went about its business. The study never happened.

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