Oglala Souix Tribal President Bryan Brewer (l) among tribal leaders who walked out on State Department last May.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department released its Keystone XL environmental impact statement late Friday, January 31, 2014. The long anticipated report indicates that the Keystone XL pipeline would not substantially alter the global gas emissions.
However, the report falls short of indicating whether or not the pipeline would meet the test of President Obama’s broader climate strategy.
The released report “is not a decision document,” said Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs. “This document is only one factor that will be coming into the review process for this permit” sought by TransCanada.
The report released on Friday is for the northern route of the Keystone XL pipeline. The southern route that extends from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas began its oil flow last week.
Many American Indians and environmentalists oppose the northern route pipeline because of its proximity to tribal land. The proposed pipeline coming down through the Plains states has caused great concern, particularly among the Oglala in South Dakota.
Last May a group of Great Plains tribal leaders walked out of a State Department Keystone XL pipeline consultation because they accused the Obama administration of not sending high ranking department officials to meet with them on a “nation-to-nation” basis.
TransCanada’s proposed northern pipeline route is right though the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. It will cross the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System in two places.
The final State Department decision is yet to be made. A 30-day comment period begins on February 5 and eight federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Defense and Energy, will weigh in.
In the past, the EPA has questioned whether or not the State Department had done its due diligence in regards to the pipeline’s potential negative environmental impact.
Friday’s report indicates bitumen – which is extracted in Canada and diluted so it can be transported to oil refineries in the United States – is more difficult to clean up than crude oil if the event of a spill.
Secretary John Kerry will ultimately make the State Department’s final decision, which will then be forwarded to the White House for President Barack Obama to decide.