US State Department sees ‘minimum’ impact from Keystone XL new route

TransCanada Corp. won a small, but important battle Monday after the U.S. State Department released a somewhat positive review for the company’s proposed $8 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline, predicting “moderate” environmental impacts from its construction and operation.

The alternate route approved by Nebraska regulators is expected to have minor to moderate effects on three of the eight environmental categories the U.S. State Department assessed.

In its 300 page draft report, the department says that some of the most important consequences from the pipe’s alternate route, approved by Nebraska regulators in November, include injuries to wetlands and vegetation, but adds much of that impact will be temporary.

The news sparked environmentalists' outrage. The Sierra Club, for one, accused the US administration of cutting the permitting process short.

“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,” Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign said in an emailed statement.

“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,” Martin noted.

The State Department is expected to open a 30-day public comment period on the draft assessment before making it final.

Primary construction of Keystone XL is slated to start in 2019. Once completed, the pipeline will run about 1,200-mile (1,900-km) from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, carrying crude from the oil-rich, but landlocked Canadian province with U.S. refineries.