Sierra Club Continues the Fight Against the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
February 14, 2014: click here to read an article by Scientific American on the real story behind State Deptartment's rushed release of the Keystone XL report.
On February 5, 2014, the Sierra Club filed a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ refusal to disclose key documents regarding the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. The Sierra Club alleges that the Corps, which is one of the agencies assisting the State Department in its review of the pipeline proposal, has wrongly withheld detailed water-crossing information in response to the group’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in California, comes on the heels of the State Department’s latest environmental review of the controversial pipeline. If built, the tar sands pipeline would cross thousands of rivers, streams, and wetlands. If the documents, submitted to the agency by the pipeline company TransCanada, show that the pipeline would have more than minimal impacts to waterways, the blanket permit issued by the Corps would be invalid and a more stringent permitting process would be required.
January 30, 2014, Bloomberg released two articles regarding Keystone XL. One article described how Keystone opponents are using the crude-by-rail constraints to urge rejection of the pipeline, while the other article described why two oil pipelines from Canada to the U.S. are worse than one.
January 10, 2014 Click here for a recap of this week’s news related to the ongoing Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Even more evidence emerged this week that Environmental Resources Management (ERM) had numerous conflicts of interest in conducting State’s environmental analysis of the Keystone pipeline, and pipeline supporters tried to use a disastrous train explosion to their benefit, in spite of the significant dangers of moving tar sands by pipeline.
The State Department’s latest environmental impact statement (EIS) for the infamous Keystone XL pipeline, which largely dismissed the project’s climate impacts, is facing increased criticism and charges of potential bias. It turns out that the company that wrote the EIS is a member of the American Petroleum Institute, Keystone XL’s biggest proponent, and its clients include numerous oil companies that stand to benefit from the pipeline. Furthermore, documents obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit suggest that the State Department failed to properly screen for conflicts of interest. Meanwhile, a chorus of influential voices including Al Gore and former EPA Administrator Carol Browner are urging the demise of this climate-disrupting, oil company project.
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.
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.
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.
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.