EPA slams State Department tar sands pipeline study John Podesta has said, the phrase “green tar sands” is like “error-free deepwater drilling” and “clean coal”.  Thankfully, a key Canadian energy goal – construction of a 1,700 mile pipeline to bring dirty tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast – has hit a significant speed bump, the U.S. EPA.  CAP’s Tom Kenworthy has the story.

In unusually blunt comments the Environmental Protection Agency has sharply criticized the State Department’s draft Environmental Impact Statement on the $7 billion pipeline project which is awaiting a State Department decision on granting a permit. At the very least, EPA’s concerns about the potential environmental effects of the pipeline are likely to slow the decision process.

“We think that the Draft EIS does not provide the scope or detail of analysis necessary to fully inform decision makers and the public, and recommend that additional information and analysis be provided,” EPA advised State in a July 16 letter. EPA said that the draft environmental analysis needed further work on a range of issues, ranging from the basic need for the pipeline given U.S. clean energy and carbon pollution reduction goals to its potential impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, wetlands, migratory birds, public water supplies and minority communities.

“EPA has raised a major red flag,” said Jim Lyon, senior vice president for the National Wildlife Federation, which recently published “Staying Hooked on a Dirty Fuel,” a study opposing construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. “Tar sands and the pipelines that carry them are the wrong energy choice for the U.S.”

The Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver up to 900,000 barrels of tar sands crude to Port Arthur, Texas and other refining destinations on the Gulf Coast, would be the third tar sands pipeline to win approval from the U.S. government. One completed pipeline now brings oil from the border in North Dakota to the upper Midwest. A second pipeline, Keystone I, was approved last year by the State Department will connect Alberta to Oklahoma.

Oil from Canadian tar sands is among the world’s dirtiest, most polluting and environmentally destructive oils. As the EPA estimates in its letter, carbon pollution from tar sands is “82% greater than the average crude refined in the U.S., on a well-to-tank basis.” That difference is equal to the emissions of seven coal-fired power plants. Strip mining the ore that contains the bitumen which is refined into oil has also damaged vast areas of Canada’s boreal forest. Processing the ore consumes large quantities of water and yields large waste ponds that can harm and kill waterfowl and other birds.

In addition to raising concerns about carbon pollution from the project, EPA:

  • questioned the overall need in light of “proposed and potential future changes to fuel economy standards and the potential for more widespread use of fuel-efficient technologies, advanced biofuels and electric vehicles”¦.”
  • was skeptical of the State Department’s claim that additional air quality impacts from refining tar sands at U.S. refineries would not be major.
  • said that the draft EIS had not adequately studied potential impacts to surface and ground water from pipeline leaks and spills.
  • Expressed concerns that the draft EIS had not fully examined the potential for minority, low-income and tribal communities being disproportionally affected by the project.

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17 Responses to EPA slams State Department tar sands pipeline study

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    Fuel so dirty even the military won’t use it.

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    BP Shareholders Reject Resolution to Require Environmental Reports on Canadian Tar Sands

    The World Wildlife Federation released a report last month (WWF) report about oil sands drilling. The Canadian Energy Research Institute estimated that $379 billion investment is required by 2025 to bring production to around four million barrels per day (bpd).

    According to the report, $379 billion could do the following:

    * Cover the cost of Desertec Industrial Initiative, which would link North Africa solar plants into a supergrid covering Europe, and supply 15 percent of Europe’s electricity needs by 2050.
    * Fund a Europe-wide shift to electric vehicles.
    * Fund infrastructure for a Europe-wide system of electronic vehicles (EV) plus subsidize EV sales
    * Help fund wind power investment from now to 2025. EU targets for wind energy are 20 percent of electricity demands by 2020 and 34 percent by 2030.
    * In the U.S., would meet total construction cost for the 251 GW of onshore wind power needed to meet the target of 20 percent of electricity demands by 2030 from wind power.
    * In Canada, $14 billion (Canadian Dollars) of investment is needed for converting to smart grids across the country.
    * An investment of $77 billion would pay for expanding urban transit across Canada and new high speed intercity train systems for Québec City–Windsor, Edmonton–Calgary and Vancouver–Seattle.

  3. leftymartin says:

    No problem, they will send the oil to China, who are moving into the oilsands in a big way.

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Like all mining and non-renewable resource development projects, oil sands operations have an adverse effect on the environment. Oil sands projects affect: the land when the bitumen is initially mined and with large deposits of toxic chemicals; the water during the separation process and through the drainage of rivers; and the air due to the release of carbon dioxide and other emissions, as well as deforestation. Additional indirect environmental effects are that the petroleum products produced are mostly burned, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

    The production of bitumen and synthetic crude oil emits more greenhouse gas (GHG) than the production of conventional crude oil, and has been identified as the largest contributor to GHG emissions growth in Canada, as it accounts for 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

  5. llewelly says:

    Peak oil, as we have seen before, is bringing about the replacement of oil with fuels which are both more carbon-intensive, and more environmentally destructive. This is in contrast to both the view that peak oil would bring about huge declines in energy availability, and to the hope it would encourage replacement of oil with energy sources that won’t run out, and are far less polluting, such as solar.

  6. catman306 says:

    Thanks Pro, and here’s your leaking oil pipe Photos:

    They really want to build an oil pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast? INSANE!

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Chinese Buy $5 Billion Stake in the Tar Sands

    Timing, they say, is everything.tar-sands-new Yesterday I blogged on the US military’s latest warnings on peak oil and how we face a severe energy crunch. The military planners examined different production methods and flagged up potential problems.

    With the Canadian tar sands they warned that “legal constraints may discourage investment.” Surely this is just exporting pollution then – from Canada to China. As this picture shows from an anti-tar sands protest in London yesterday – the tar sands is a global climate crime, no matter where the oil goes.

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    Canadian Pipeline Wars
    Last week I wrote about the attempt by Congressman Henry Waxman to block TransCanada’s (TRP) Keystone XL pipeline … Based on what we’ve seen so far, expect fireworks. Congressman Waxman may turn out to be right after all.

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    You can expect a change soon for china plans importing oil from tar sands.

    China has invested heavily in hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and nuclear power plants in an attempt to cut rising reliance on imported oil and gas, which its leaders see as a national security risk.

  10. mike roddy says:

    Tar sands oil is an atrocity in every way, and I’m glad to see Englishmen and Canadians waking up. If these pipelines get built anyway, and bitumen operations expand, there should be movements to defeat responsible politicians and product boycotts.

    Congressman Waxman deserves our thanks for his courage and determination. We need hundreds more like him.

    Nine years ago I worked with First Nation protestors on the BC Coast to halt ancient forest logging. Their leaders blocked logging roads, and suffered long prison terms. People everywhere are saying “enough” to what can only be described in one word: evil.

  11. Joe Ferdinand says:

    The US Fish and Wildlife Service recieved no comments during the open comment period in 2008

  12. Sasparilla says:

    #4 (leftymartin) you are quite right, China is and will continue to increase its pull on Tar Sands oil regardless of what we do here in the US.

    I remember reading what one of the commenters on these pages said long ago and he said he just assumed that we’d (the world) suck every drop of oil (however awful) out of the ground. After watching world behavior for the last 20 years, I agree with that statement – and it seems like we’ll do a pretty good job of getting all the coal out too.

    I’d personally love to see this pipeline stopped – it’d be a nice little victory in this sea of losses with regards to US governmental global warming legislative action.

    #6 (llewelly) said something quite true as well – at this point all the cleaner, easy to get oil has been marked and pumped (or is being pumped), so without a cheaper easy alternative readily available – we’ll go after all the hard to get, dirty, nasty stuff – tar sands is right there. Now the theory (peak oil will push us to other power solutions), long term will come through, once the worldwide production of oil starts falling and the price of oil gets high enough (much higher than $4 a gallon) – expensive, less flexible solutions will become viable, but for large scale implementation – you’re looking at multiple decades for that. In the mean time prepare to watch the world pull all the oil it can get from the ground as it starts to battle an ever decreasing supply of oil per year.

  13. paulm says:

    The Canadian Gov is quitely down playing the impact of the Tar sands….

    MPs destroy drafts of pollution review
    Decision to dump investigation ‘frustrating,’ Duncan says

    The aborted investigation comes as new questions are raised about the Harper government’s decision to exempt a primary toxic pollutant found in oilsands tailings ponds from a regulatory agenda.

    The government is categorizing industry-produced substances that could either be toxic or harmful but has excluded naphthenic acid — a toxin from oilsands operations — from the list, and left it off another list of substances that companies are required to track and report.

    “Naphthenic acids are one of the main pollutants responsible for the toxicity of tarsands tailings to aquatic organisms and have been shown to harm liver, heart and brain function in mammals,” Matt Price, the policy director at Environmental Defence, an independent research organization based in Toronto, said in a letter to Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

    “Naphthenic acids are also very long-lived, taking decades to break down.”

    Price said the federal and provincial governments already allow some of the toxins to leak into groundwater and surface water. “It is therefore urgent that all tailings pollutants, and naphthenic acid in particular, be properly assessed and managed to minimize the risk to human and environmental health.”

    Read more:

  14. Jim Edelson says:

    There is an “Alberta: The Other Oil Disaster” campaign to discourage tourism running in Alberta’s four biggest source markets: Denver, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis. Each of these cities has numerous billboards with giant pictures of oil-soaked birds. The Canadians are hopping mad. And the U.S. Ambassador to Canada made a fairly constructive remark in response.

    “They need to do more to demonstrate how they’re meeting the challenges of providing energy security while meeting their obligations of environmental stewardship,” Ambassador David Jacobson was quoted in the Calgary Herald.

  15. James Newberry says:

    Does this show that Obama’s State Department is corrupt? And off topic, why is State Dept. sending a navy fleet to Central America for more “drug war?” Aren’t we going bankrupt fast enough already?