Sierra ClubContinues the Fight Against the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
April 1, 2013
The Environmental Law Program is continuing to fight the dirty Keystone XL Pipeline on several fronts. We are currently waiting for rulings from both the District Court and 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in its litigation over the Army Corps of Engineers' unlawful approval of the southern segment, known as the Gulf Coast Pipeline. The decisions could come any day.
Meanwhile, ELP is leading the opposition to the northern half of Keystone XL by writing and coordinating the environmental coalition's technical comments on the State Department's latest flawed Environmental Impact Statement. Additionally, we are submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in an effort to uncover key documents on which State relied to prepare the evaluation.
Tar sands oil is the most toxic fossil fuel on the planet that leaves in its wake scarred landscapes and a web of pipelines and polluting refineries all while delaying our transition to a clean energy economy. But, it is an oil disaster that we can still stop.
February 11, 2013
The Keystone XL pipeline would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of heavy, carbon-intensive tar sands crude from Alberta into the U.S. for refining, with much of the refined products likely getting exported overseas. It is a pipeline to climate oblivion, not to mention the massive destruction of boreal forests and songbird habitat.
Since 2009, the Sierra Club's legal team has been leading the charge against this project in the courts and administrative agencies, winning several battles along the way. Once again, the decision is coming to a head, with the State Department poised to release another supplemental environmental review of the pipeline.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are expected to converge In Washington D.C. on President's Day weekend to demonstrate against the XL Pipeline and urge President Obama to take bold action on the climate crisis. Rest assured our lawyers will be on high alert through the next chapter of this saga.
January 18, 2012
Today, the Obama Administration determined that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in the national interest and announced that it will formally deny a federal permit for the proposed pipeline put forth by Canadian oil giant TransCanada. The 1,700-mile pipeline would run through six states, carrying toxic, highly corrosive tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries and ports in Texas.
November 11, 2011
The Department of State (DOS) has announced that it is reevaluating the environmental review of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline project. The reevaluation will include consideration of rerouting the pipeline to avoid sensitive ecological areas in Nebraska. An alternative route would require a new environmental impact statement and would delay a final decision on the tar sands oil pipeline for as long as 18 months.
This announcement comes on the heels of a national day of action, where thousands of people gathered in Washington D.C. to circle the White House and urge President Obama to put a stop to the dangerous Keystone XL pipeline. This announcement is a death knell for the dirty tar sands oil pipeline, and a culmination of years of work to protect land, air, water, and health by moving the nation beyond oil.
The Sierra Club Environmental Law Program (ELP) has been heavily involved in a multi-pronged campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and the development of tar sands oil crude generally. In early 2009, ELP assumed a lead role in coordinating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process on the pipeline and have maintained that role since. Along with other groups, ELP submitted comments on every stage of the environmental review process; from scoping to the draft, supplemental, and final environmental impact statements (EIS) for the project. ELP also played a central role in persuading DOS to conduct the first supplemental EIS, which represented the first significant victory in the permitting process.
As the nationwide campaign against Keystone XL grew, ELP became increasingly involved in the day-to-day legal work supporting the larger tar sands and Keystone XL campaigns. ELP participated in frequent strategy calls with Sierra Club organizing, lobbying, and communications staff and with coalition partners that included Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and Friends of the Earth, among others.
ELP was also instrumental in the efforts that led to the Department of State decision to postpone Keystone XL. Our comments on the draft EIS critiqued the lack of analysis of a route that would avoid the Sand Hills. ELP later wrote a memo laying out the alternative route legal arguments, which was used by our D.C. and Nebraska staff and coalition partners to elevate the issue and streamline organizing and lobbying efforts. DOS responded by preparing a supplemental EIS and including a new route around the Sand Hills, but the additional route was designed to fail and the analysis did not comply with NEPA. ELP attorneys coordinated the supplemental EIS technical comments, which again called for a route that would follow the Keystone I route into Canada. DOS responded by adding a perfunctory analysis of that additional Keystone I route to the final EIS. In the final technical comments, ELP again pointed out the short shrift that alternative routes were given and the need for a meaningful analysis of a route that would avoid the Sand Hills. DOS ultimately decided to postpone issuance of the permit for a year so that it could do just that.
August 26, 2011
On August 26, the Obama Administration released its final Environmental Impact Statement on foreign oil corporation TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline to transport high corrosive and toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland.
In response, Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, issued the following statement:
“The U.S. State Department’s final report on the Keystone XL today is an insult to anyone who expects government to work for the interests of the American people.
“Americans don't want a 2,000 mile-long toxic crude oil pipeline running through our heartland for the benefit of a foreign oil corporation and they don’t want another oil spill. TransCanada's proposed tar sands pipeline would threaten our most productive farmlands and the drinking water of millions of Americans. It would expose more Americans to cancer-causing carcinogens, and open the gates on the biggest source of carbon pollution in the northern hemisphere.
“The mathematics are simple but the stakes are incredibly high—the United States has nothing to gain from Keystone XL, and everything to lose.
“American innovation and technology are poised to deliver clean and safe energy solutions to power our economy, but we need corporate polluters like TransCanada to get out of our way. The Sierra Club and our 1.4 million members and supporters are looking to President Obama for bold action and we urge him to reject this abomination.”
The State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):
Fails to examine threats to the Ogallala Aquifer – a drinking water source for millions of Americans – and the Sandhills of South Dakota, despite numerous requests from U.S. Senators;
Ignores the effects of toxic pollution from corrosive tar sands refineries – cancer, asthma and heavy metal poisoning – on the millions of residents in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas and other cities;
Disregards the fact that there are no existing federal safeguards in place for the safe transport of tar sands crude oil, known as bitumen, one of the dirtiest and most dangerous forms of oil on Earth.
June 7, 2011
On June 7, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its official comments on the TransCanada Keystone XL toxic tar sands pipeline, deeming the U.S. Department of State’s recent analysis of the proposed pipeline to be environmentally objectionable and insufficient. EPA’s comments highlighted concerns over the risks associated with pipeline safety and oil spills, impacts on critical water resources, industry disclosure of chemicals and procedures and the health effects on Gulf Coast communities and wetlands.
“The EPA’s analysis […] confirms the fears of more than a quarter million Americans who have voiced their opposition to the toxic Keystone XL pipeline,” said Kate Colarulli, Sierra Club Associate Campaign Director for Beyond Oil. “The pipeline would threaten the drinking water of millions of Americans, dump toxic chemicals into Gulf Coast communities, spew billions of tons in dangerous carbon pollution into our air and hasten the destruction our land and water – all in service to the foreign company TransCanada’s efforts to control oil supply into America and drive up gas prices.
“The Sierra Club applauds EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for sounding the alarm on the dangers of Keystone XL, and as it becomes clear that the State Department has fallen short on this issue, we hope to see more involvement from President Obama.”
April 15, 2011
On April 15, the U.S. Department of State issued a supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. Unfortunately, the analysis still falls far short of a sufficient and thorough environmental assessment. The Department also announced the bare minimum amount of time for public comment on the measure.
In response, Kate Colarulli, Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign, issued the following statement:
"We are deeply disappointed to see such an inadequate environmental analysis from the State Department. Given the destructive nature and far-reaching effects that these dirty tar sands would have on our economy, farms in the Heartland, and Americans’ health, we expect more. The American people deserve more.
"Alarmingly, the State Department is moving ahead with the permitting process before the Department of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has completed a thorough, scientific analysis of the chemical composition of tar sands oil, its potential effects on pipeline safety, affected drinking water sources, and the risk of a major oil spill.
"What’s more, the minimal public comment period issued today would mean that the millions of Americans affected by the pipeline would have little time to make their concerns heard.
"We are dismayed that the State Department is rushing forward with this process at the behest of a foreign corporation and despite the fact that there are still critical, outstanding questions that must be answered about the threats this project poses to Americans' health and safety."
March 15, 2011
In an important victory for Sierra Club and its allies, the U.S. Department of State has agreed to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, and release the SEIS for public comment.
In response, Sierra Club’s Dirty Fuels Campaign Director, Kate Colarulli, issued the following statement:
"We are very pleased that the State Department is taking a closer look at Keystone XL. Now we need to make sure they do a thorough job. If any foreign oil project requires close scrutiny by our government, it’s this one. This project would carry toxic, dangerous tar sands oil right through America’s heartland, putting our drinking water and farming at risk.
The State Department now needs to carefully consider finding an alternative route for the pipeline that does not jeopardize the Ogallala aquifer, which is one of the most important sources of water in the country. The agency also needs to fully consider the scale of pollution the project would create, including air pollution from refining the toxic crude in Texas communities.
The tar sands oil Keystone XL would carry is dirtier and more likely to corrode steel pipe than conventional oil leading to elevated risk of spill. Extracting the oil is one of the most destructive practices in the world. It requires clear-cutting ancient forest, burning huge amounts of energy and water, and leaving behind massive toxic lakes. Tar sands oil is linked to high rates of cancer in nearby communities.
We will be working hard in the coming weeks to make sure the State Department hears from the tens of thousands of Americans who oppose this project."
December 17, 2010
On December 16, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) submitted comments to the Department of State regarding the need for a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed project involves the construction of a 1,980-mile, 36-inch diameter tar sands crude oil pipeline that would begin in Alberta, Canada and extend southeast through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. It would incorporate a portion of the Keystone Pipeline and deliver tar sands crude to existing terminals to serve the Texas oil market. Tar sands development is extremely energy intensive. Producing oil from tar sands emits three to five times the global warming pollution as conventional oil, requires excessive amounts of energy and water, and destroys swaths of boreal forest.
In their comments, the environmental groups highlight how new information and circumstances, as well as significant recent changes to the proposed project, require analysis in an SEIS under the National Environmental Policy Act. For example, a series of disasters over the summer, including a tar sands crude oil pipeline spill of over one million gallons of diluted bitumen (DilBit) into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, have exposed the challenges of transporting highly corrosive, acidic DilBit through pipelines.
Additionally, the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) failed to address the Department of Energy’s concerns about a number of issues, including the failure to adequately analyze the project’s greenhouse gas impacts; the failure to analyze the unique risks associated with transporting DilBit through pipelines; and the failure to adequately address the project’s impacts on wetlands, migratory birds, and air and water pollution in nearby communities.
Sierra Club and NRDC are urging the Department of State to issue an SEIS for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline for public comment, and to use the SEIS as an opportunity to correct the substantial deficiencies in the DEIS.
Details and Documents:
Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Rejecting the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
January 18, 2012, Sierra Club Press Release
Environmental Groups, Unions Support President Obama’s Decision on Keystone XL Pipeline
January 18, 2012, Joint Statement
State Dept. Announces Reevaluation of Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
November 10, 2011, Sierra Club Press Release
Sierra Club et al. Follow Up Letter to the U.S. Department of State Regarding the Need for an SEIS for the Transcanada Keystone XL Pipeline
January 26, 2011
Sierra Club and NRDC Comments Regarding the Need for an SEIS for the Transcanada Keystone XL Pipeline
December 16, 2010
Pipeline company tweaks route to avoid EPA scrutiny of southern leg
May 23, 2012 by Elana Schor, Greenwire
Enviros seeks EPA intervention in pipeline company's water permit
May 3, 2012 by Elana Schor, E&E News
Rejecting Pipeline Proposal, Obama Blames Congress
January 18, 2012 by John M. Broder & Dan Frosch, The New York Times
Yellowstone spill raises questions about Keystone proposal, Senate Dems tell Clinton
July 15, 2011 by Elana Schor, E&E News
Pipeline an oilsands emblem
April 30, 2011 by Shaun Polczer, Calgary Herald
State Department orders extra review of proposed pipeline
March 16, 2011 by Elana Schor, E&E News
Environmental groups call for more review of Keystone pipeline
March 2, 2011 by James MacPherson, Associated Press
One oil pipeline too many for Texas?
January 24, 2011 by Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
See other "Fighting Dirty Oil and Promoting Green Transportation" cases.