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State Department issues Keystone XL pipeline plan analysis

The State Department issued a detailed analysis of the latest proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline, which has faced intense scrutiny over its potential environment impact. "Today, the U.S. Department of State released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) in response to TransCanada’s May 2012 application for the Keystone XL pipeline that would run ...

The State Department issued a detailed analysis of the latest proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline, which has faced intense scrutiny over its potential environment impact.

The State Department issued a detailed analysis of the latest proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline, which has faced intense scrutiny over its potential environment impact.

"Today, the U.S. Department of State released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) in response to TransCanada’s May 2012 application for the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada to Nebraska." the State Department said in a release today. "The document is a draft technical review of potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed Project, including: impacts from construction, impacts from potential spills, impacts related to climate change, and economic impacts."

After 45 days of public comment, State will issue a final the SEIS, which will be the department’s final say on the environmental impact of the pipeline project. After that, a decision on approving the plan will be made. 

"This is a draft. I think it’s premature to get into that because we need to have a public debate," Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones said in a conference call Friday. "I think it’s premature at this point to try to come down with strong conclusions."

Although the draft doesn’t draw any final conclusions on whether the pipeline project is environmentally sound, it does outline several changes in the application made by pipeline company TransCanada in 2012 since the 2008 application, which was rejected by the State Department on environmental grounds in 2011.

"This is a document that looks a lot of the technical issues; it’s not really a policy document," Jones said. "We have found that there are in some cases impacts and in some cases there are impact mitigations… This paper does not come out one way or the other and make a decision about this project. We’re not at that stage… It really has no recommendations one way or the other."

The new application proposes a pipeline that would be 875 miles long and transport 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta, Canada, and the Baken Shale Formation in Montana, through the states of Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. It would connect to existing pipelines in Steele City, Nebraska, for onward delivery to Cushing, Oklahoma, and the Texas Gulf coast region.

The 2008 plan would have crossed through five states and would have been about 1.5 times the length. The route was changed to avoid the Sand Hills area in Nebraska due to worries that a pipeline incident could spoil that environmentally sensitive region.

The Natural Resources Defense Council issued a statement late Friday afternoon insisting that the new plan does not address its concerns.

"The facts remain absolutely clear: the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest. Mining the tar sands would be a disaster for our climate," said NRDC Canada Project Director Danielle Droitsch. "Piping it through the heartland would put our ranchers and farmers at risk. And sending it to the Gulf only makes our country a dirty oil gateway to overseas markets. It’s not in our national interest. It’s a bad idea. It needs to be denied."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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