Lawmakers to US State Dept: put oil pipe on hold

* 34 lawmakers concerned State Dept. has “failed” again

* Asks for 50-yr review of greenhouse gases, not 20 yr

* Wants State Dept. to examine route to avoid aquifer

 

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers want the State Department to delay its decision-making process on whether to approve a $7 billion pipeline that would deliver crude from Canada’s oil sands to Texas until a number of environmental concerns are addressed.

The State Department has said it will decide by the end of the year whether to approve the pipeline which could lock in higher oil imports from Canada for 50 years.

The Keystone XL project would add a line from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska to an existing system, and add an extension from Oklahoma to Texas, to take Canadian crude oil to the Gulf Coast refining hub.

In April, the State Department issued a supplemental environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline after the EPA complained that the department’s initial environmental risk analysis was inadequate.

But the new analysis was also inadequate, according to a group of 34 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We are concerned that once again the Department of State has failed to appropriately address issues that were ignored or inadequately analyzed in the first environmental review,” according to a letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday and obtained by Reuters.

The letter, spearheaded by U.S. Representative Steve Cohen, a Democrat, asks that the State Department’s permitting process be put on hold until it analyzes the greenhouse gas emissions of the pipeline over its 50-year lifetime, not the 20-year time frame examined in the supplemental review.

It also asked the State Department to analyze alternative routes for the pipeline that would avoid the Sandhills region of the Ogallala aquifer, a vast, shallow underground water table tapped by farmers and residents in the High Plains states.

Criticism of the Keystone XL pipeline project has deepened after recent leaks in the original line.

TransCanada Corp hopes the 591,000 barrel-per-day Keystone line, which runs from Alberta to Oklahoma, will resume operation soon after a leak in Kansas spilled about 10 barrels of oil. The incident follows a larger spill last month.

Environmentalists, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, have raised concerns about the higher carbon dioxide emissions of oil sands from Alberta because of the energy-intensive process of extracting the oil from the Athabasca sands.

The lawmakers’ letter also said the State Department’s environmental review failed to analyze whether crude from the oil sands is more corrosive to pipelines than average crude oils.

Some Republicans in the House, however, want the State Department to speed up its decision on the pipeline, saying that China could buy up the oil if the United States does not act fast enough.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner had no immediate information on the letter. He said the State Department has a ”very stringent” process to review the pipeline that is continuing.

“They are looking at all various impacts on the environment, I’m certain that they’re looking at this issue as well,” he said.