The U.S. State Department issued its final environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline project. The study, which raised no major concerns, clears the way for the 875-mile pipeline project to proceed and, as some have noted, gives President Obama some political latitude to endorse it. The route has changed since the State Department’s review in 2011 to avoid the Sand Hills Region of Nebraska and terminates on the Nebraska-Oklahoma border. (The initial proposal also included a leg to the Gulf Coast, which has now been eliminated.) The report did confirm that processing Canada’s oil sands requires more energy and therefore results in higher greenhouse gas emissions but observed that the rejection or approval of the pipeline would not slow or accelerate the development of this resource.
The pipeline has received increased attention recently, in part because of the attention given to oil transport options generally, but also because Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister (John Baird) was recently in Washington D.C. insisting on a U.S. decision – any decision — on the pipeline. The Canadian press appears cautiously optimistic that this will be the final chapter in this now five year old project, but Secretary of State John Kerry must now weigh in, and other agencies and the public have the opportunity to do so, too. Given the 1.5 million comments received on Keystone 1, the final chapter could be a long one.