By John H Cushman | 23 April 2013
Leading environmental groups declared on Monday that the Obama administration’s latest environmental review of the Keystone XL pipelinefundamentally violated the nation’s core environmental law, an unmistakable warning that they would sue the State Department if it continued to insist that the pipeline poses no significant environmental risk.
As if to bolster their case, the Environmental Protection Agency weighed in as well with its own rebuke, saying that it found “environmental objections” to the State Department’s controversial draft environmental impact statement, issued in March, which it deemed “insufficient.” Apublic comment period ended on Monday, and these were among the first comments released.
Industry groups, in their own comments, broadly endorsed the State Department’s approach, which has been widely seen as offering a green light to Keystone, if not an immediate one. Months more of reviewing by the Obama administration lies ahead.
The environmental groups include some of the environmental movement’s most seasoned national litigators—the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth and nine others. Their 200-page comment said that by assuming that Canadian tar sands crude would be delivered to market by rail or some other means if the pipeline were blocked, the State Department had allowed itself “to avoid a full assessment of the project’s direct, indirect and cumulative impacts including its climate impacts,” as required under the National Environmental Protection Act, or NEPA.
“Perhaps the most glaring error,” they said, “is the State Department’s assertion that the tar sands will be developed at the same rate regardless of whether Keystone XL is built … This assumption is flawed and unsupported, is directly contradicted by nearly all sectors including the oil industry itself, and it violates the State Department’s NEPA obligations.”