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A long-awaited report from the US State Department claims that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is unlikely to add to global greenhouse gasses in any significant way — not because tapping into Canadian oil sands for the pipeline is safe, but because the government expects those resources to be developed in the long run anyway. The environmental impact assessment is now going to be passed on to Secretary of State John Kerry. Obama has already indicated a willingness to approve the proposed pipeline if it could be shown not to significantly exacerbate climate change.

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While it’s probably true that one individual development project is unlikely to significantly alter the climate, it’s certainly not going to help protect our rapidly warming planet. Opponents are concerned about the US becoming more dependent on fossil fuels, potential harm to endangered species, and the possibility that the pipeline might leak. After high-profile disasters like the BP oil spill, it’s disappointing to see that this possibility isn’t even on the Obama administration’s radar. Even the EPA is questioning whether the report is looking at the whole environmental picture. Not only does the oil extracted in Canada result in 17% more emissions than regular crude oil, it’s also heavier and more difficult to clean up in in the case of oil spills.

Secretary Kerry is expected to review the 11-volume report over the coming weeks, and plans to invite public comment for 30 days beginning on February 5th. Various government agencies will also have 90 days to weigh in. The State Department’s final decision on the pipeline may not be announced for some time — it could come before the end of the 105-day comment period, or much later afterward. Environmental groups are already coordinating as “day of action” on Tuesday, encouraging members to call and email Kerry to ask him not to give the pipeline the green light.

Via The Washington Post