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State Dept: New Keystone XL Route No Big Deal for Nebraska Farms, Waters, Critters

The Trump Administration says Keystone XL’s modified route through Nebraska won’t hurt that state’s environment much:

The U.S. State Department released a draft study Monday of the pipeline’s potential environmental impact in Nebraska, where opponents have repeatedly thwarted the project. The study is now subject to public input through Aug. 29 before it’s finalized.

The announcement marks another step in pipeline developer TransCanada’s quest to finish the 1,184-mile oil pipeline, although the company continues to face obstacles in Nebraska.

…The report said most of the disruption would take place during pipeline construction and would have a “moderate” impact at most, and in those cases, crews could mitigate the damage. TransCanada has said it will compensate affected landowners for damage, although opponents say the company isn’t offering enough.

“It is estimated that disturbed pastures, croplands and grassy rangelands may take one to five years to recover to pre-construction levels,” the report said [“Report: Keystone XL Would Have No Major Impact on Nebraska,” AP via 1011now.com, 2018.07.30].

The draft report contends that Keystone XL would have 0.06 spills per year that would affect crops and only 0.002 such spills greater than 1,000 barrels. That multiplies out to maybe one crop-oiling spill of any size every 17 seventeen years and one 1000+ spill only once every 500 years.

United States Department of State, "Draft Environmental Assessment: Keystone XL Mainline Alternative Route Project," July 2018, chap. 5, p. 23.
United States Department of State, “Draft Environmental Assessment: Keystone XL Mainline Alternative Route Project,” July 2018, chap. 5, p. 23.

Spills of any size affecting recreational waters should happen only once every 10,000 years. Contamination of prime farmland soil or shallow aquifer might happen once every twenty years. Threatened and endangered species might only be impacted once every 25 years. Wetlands might suffer a spill once every 333 years, but if they do, the Trump State Department says just let the oil sit for decades:

Passive cleanup methods (including natural attenuation) would cause less impact to wetland resources. If no active remediation activities were undertaken, with concurrence of the regulatory body, natural biodegradation and attenuation could ultimately allow a return to preexisting conditions in both soil and groundwater. However, recovery would likely require a timeframe measured in decades [USDoS, July 2018, chap. 5, p. 33].

Bold Nebraska and its allies say this assessment is part of a Trump strategy to get around proper procedure and rush the pipeline to construction:

One of the Trump administration’s first actions was the State Department’s approval of Keystone XL based on an outdated Environmental Impact Statement from 2014. In November, Nebraska regulators rejected TransCanada’s preferred route for the pipeline, instead approving a different route which had not been assessed at all.

The Sierra Club and partners are currently challenging the State Department’s approval of the pipeline based on this insufficient analysis in federal court. Rather than following the legally required process of preparing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement before approving a project, the State Department is attempting to rush the project through by releasing an abbreviated Environmental Assessment on the new Nebraska route while leaving its permit in place, and still failing to conduct an adequate review of the project’s climate impacts, harm to endangered species, or changes in oil prices and market forces since 2014.

“Once again, the Trump administration is attempting to take a shortcut around the legally required review process on Keystone XL, putting our communities at risk for the sake of propping up the Canadian tar sands industry,” said Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Director Kelly Martin. “Keystone XL was a bad idea when it was proposed a decade ago, it was a bad idea when former President Obama rejected it, and it’s an even worse idea now. This pipeline is a threat to our land, water, wildlife, communities, and climate, and we will continue fighting, in the courts and in the streets, to ensure that it is never built” [Mark Hefflinger, “Trump Administration Attempts a Shortcut to Get Keystone XL Built,” Bold Nebraska, 2018.07.30].

The Department of State is taking public comments online through August 29.

4 Comments

  1. Donald Pay 2018-07-31 10:01

    I’ll be commenting. Don’t you just love phrases like “natural attenuation?” It means “we let it stay there and don’t bother figuring out how the hell we will clean it up , because (a) it would cost too much and we don’t want to pay that cost, and/or (b) we have no idea how to clean it up.” In every case where they say “natural attenuation” you know it’s just sweeping it under the rug and let the locals suffer the result of our greed. All so China can have cheaper petroleum products. MAGA, indeed. NOT.

  2. mike from iowa 2018-07-31 16:41

    There is no one in this State Department or administration competent to male any decisions on anything about anything.

    Drumpf will soon be a convicted felon and should not be allowed to make any decisions that will negatively impact the rest of this country for the rest of forever.

  3. Debbo 2018-07-31 20:40

    I laughed uncontrollably as I read this:

    “Spills of any size affecting recreational waters should happen only once every 10,000 years. Contamination of prime farmland soil or shallow aquifer might happen once every twenty years. Threatened and endangered species might only be impacted once every 25 years. Wetlands might suffer a spill once every 333 years.”

    The Onion just gets better every day! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  4. leslie 2018-07-31 22:24

    That paragraph should be Exhibit One in an argument that no serious expert would pander to.

    “Less impact” is pretty vague.

    Who ever wrote this has been bought and paid for. So much for objective science.

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