Update: US State Dept. report finds Keystone XL pipeline environmentally sound

Last Friday a US State Department report approved the Keystone pipeline as environmentally sound.

Barring any big surprises, this should represent the government's final decision.

An official 45-day comment period is now underway, after which Secretary of State John Kerry will announce whether or not he thinks the pipeline is within the national interest.

Secretary Kerry has promised a "fair and transparent" review of the Keystone XL plan and hopes to make his final, official decision in the "near term."

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said that is was time for President Obama to end the "needless delays…to stand up for middle class jobs and energy security and approve the Keystone pipeline."

The President's rejection of the Keystone project last year was bad news for the Canadian economy, which sends 97% of all energy exports to the United States. Canada's Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver stressed on Friday the importance of the pipeline to Canada's economic health.

The pipeline would allow roughly 700,000 gallons of oil daily to reach Texas oil refineries from the Alberta oil sands. This will help Canadian producers to benefit from the higher 'world' prices of heavy and light oil fetched by the top US refineries along the Gulf Coast.

The State Department's Keystone document goes into great detail on environmental impact, but finds risk of disaster is low.

"Since the majority of oil spills are small in volume…smaller spills, if reaching larger lakes, would result in minimal effects on overall water quality, assuming the lake volume is substantially larger than the volume of spilled oil."

The document also says that Keystone will negatively effect a relatively low number of wetland acres.

Earlier this week, the New York Times' Steven Greenhouse said that the US labour group AFL-CIO indirectly supported the pipeline, calling it "a low carbon emissions method of transporting oil and gas.”

American sections of the pipeline are either already completed or underway.

To read the US State Department's Keystone XL impact statement in full, click here.


Cover photo source: Jason Woodhead