Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline grows, EPA calls for better environmental review

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Emma Cassidy / Tar Sands Action

On the final day of the Keystone XL public comment period for the State Department's draft supplementary environmental impact statement (SEIS) of the KeystoneXL tar sands pipeline, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sharply critical assessment declaring the analysis "insufficient." 

 The EPA's objection is important, as the Washington Post explains, because it "not only provides opponents [of the pipeline] with political ammunition," it could also "force President Obama to directly weigh in on the permitting decision" if the EPA raises similar objections to a possible 'national interest determination' by the State Department.

"As long as no other agency objects," the Post continues, "State can issue a ruling on the pipeline on its own; if EPA challenges the national interest determination the State Department makes at the end of its review process, Obama himself would have to issue the final permit decision."

In a letter to the State Department sent Monday, the EPA outlines detailed objections to the assessment of TransCanada's proposed pipeline project. The letter specifically questions the "inevitability" of the tar sands extraction, increased carbon pollution, additional energy associated with production, the difficulty of cleaning spilled bitumen and the environmental sensitivity of the proposed route.

"These findings by EPA help confirm what we have been saying all along," writes the NRDC's Elizabeth Shope. "The environmental review by the State Department is inadequate ... extracting, transporting and refining up to 830,000 barrels per day of dirty tar sands oil from Canada is not in our national interest."

Analyzing the letter, Shope continues:

EPA rates the environmental impact statement with a 2 -- meaning "insufficient" -- and rates the environmental impact of Keystone XL as "EO" for "environmental objections." EPA expresses serious concerns about the State Department's markets analysis -- which State uses to claim that there would be no significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions. EPA also writes that the differences in tar sands diluted bitumen spills and conventional oil spills should be more fully addressed, and that they are "concerned … that the DSEIS does not provide a detailed analysis of the Keystone Corridor Alternative routes."

In 2011, the EPA expressed similar criticisms of the project.

Marking the end to the public comment period, grassroots environmental group 350.org celebrated the more than one million comments submitted to the U.S. State Department by opponents of the KXL pipeline.

"It's going to take some time for State Department and the White House to go through a million comments, but when they do they'll see a common thread: people from every part of the country in every walk of life think that this pipeline is bad for our land, water and climate," said 350.org spokesperson Daniel Kessler.

 "Families from Arkansas, Michigan, Nebraska and across the country have weighed-in in huge numbers urging President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject Keystone XL," added Nebraska landowner Randy Thompson.

"There is too much risk to trade away our health, our water and our land for a tar sands pipeline that benefits foreign oil companies. Momentum is building against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline every single day."


Lauren McCauley is a staff writer with Common Dreams, where this article was originally published. It is reprinted here with permission. 

Photo: Emma Cassidy / Tar Sands Action

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.