The Keystone XL Pipeline Is Now One Big Step Closer to U.S. Approval

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 31 2014 3:18 PM

The Keystone XL Pipeline Is Now One Big Step Closer to U.S. Approval

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Anti-fracking and Keystone XL pipeline activists demonstrate in lower Manhattan on September 21, 2013 in New York City

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The State Department, at long last, is out with its final environmental analysis of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. The early takeaway is that it doesn't look good for environmentalists and their like-minded allies. Here are the details, via the New York Times' Coral Davenport:

The long-awaited environmental impact statement on the project concludes that approval or denial of the pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, is unlikely to prompt oil companies to change the rate of their extraction of carbon-heavy tar sands oil, a State Department official said. Either way, the tar sands oil, which produces significantly more planet-warming carbon pollution than standard methods of drilling, is coming out of the ground, the report says. ...
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The conclusions of the report appear to indicate that the project has passed Mr. Obama’s climate criteria [that it wouldn't “significantly exacerbate” the problem of carbon pollution], an outcome expected to outrage environmentalists, who have rallied, protested, marched and been arrested in demonstrations around the country against the pipeline.

The fact that the State Department raised no major environmental objections to the construction of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline will understandably have the green community fretting. But it's important to note that the high-profile fight—which began more than a half decade ago—isn't over yet. Not by a long shot. The State Department still needs to study whether building the pipeline would be in the United States' national interest. Secretary of State John Kerry will have the final say on that. There's also no deadline for a final decision, so while today's news means the pipeline is one step closer to being built, there are still plenty of steps to go.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.