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Elizabeth Shope’s Blog

34 groups to Lisa Jackson: EPA should request extension and field hearings on tar sands pipeline supplemental review

Elizabeth Shope

Posted May 24, 2011

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Today, NRDC and over 30 other organizations sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, asking EPA to hold strong on their concerns about the pipeline, and to request field hearings along the right of way. The letter also thanks EPA and Administrator Jackson for their engagement on Keystone XL thus far and outlines concerns with the supplemental review, and how it does not address many of the concerns expressed by EPA about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The letter comes on the heels of a hearing yesterday on draft legislation that would speed up the process for making a decision on Keystone XL even further than the State Department’s planned needlessly fast-paced timeline. At the hearing, pipeline proponents outnumbered opponents, yet opponents’ messages about the economic and environmental riskiness of this pipeline came through strong, thanks to Congressmen Waxman and Rush, and to NWF’s Jeremy Symons, who testified.

Rushing the decision making process for Keystone XL does not make sense, given the gravity of the decision and the large number of people it would affect. In our letter, we ask EPA to “request the State Department to hold field hearings in every state through which the pipeline would pass, in order to publicly present the information contained in the review and give the public a forum to voice their concern for this major project” and note that “The timeframe for public comments should be adjusted as necessary to allow these field hearings to take place with sufficient notice.”

The Keystone XL pipeline would threaten communities from Alberta to Texas. It would put communities at risk in Alberta, where the tar sands are extracted and where communities downstream are already experiencing high rates of cancers. Along the pipeline route, the extra corrosive diluted bitumen it would carry could cause a rupture into the vital Ogallala Aquifer, which could be even more devastating and difficult to clean up than last year’s Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River. And in Texas communities such as Port Arthur, already named by EPA as an environmental justice showcase community, additional refinery pollution from the tar sands that would be refined would exacerbate already serious health and social justice issues.

Ruptured Enbridge Pipeline from Kalamazoo Spill credit NTSB.JPG

Yet the State Department has failed to analyze many of these critical environmental issues, both in the Draft EIS published in April 2010, and now in the SDEIS published in April 2011. Despite the significant shortcomings of the supplemental analysis that environmental groups, government officials and landowners alike need time to analyze, the State Department has only allowed 45 days for the public comment period, which will close on June 6, and are not holding field hearings along the right of way. This decision by the State Department to rush the environmental analysis in order to meet a self-imposed timeline does not allow for sufficient public participation and is not in line with the Obama Administration’s commitment to environmental justice issues and to open government. We hope that EPA shares these concerns, will express them to the State Department, and will again rate the SDEIS inadequate and ask them to answer the questions that they posed in July of last year.

In the mean time, here’s what you can do: go to and ask the State Department yourself for a proper environmental review, a 120 day public comment period and field hearings along the right of way.


Above photo: Ruptured pipeline from Enbridge's 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River. Credit: National Transportation Safety Board.

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