The Keystone XL Pipeline Just Moved One Step Closer To Approval

The final leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline just took one step closer to being approved, as the State Department concluded its existence would not dramatically impact development of Canada’s tar sands.

The agency determined that wheter it’s approved or not, the project is “unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas.”

“Rail will likely be able to accommodate new production if new pipelines are delayed or not constructed,” it added.

The Keystone XL Pipeline, maintained by Calgary-based Transcanada, already largely exists — its Texas leg began taking oil from Oklahoma a few days ago. But a section running from Hardisty Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska requires approval from the Obama administration because it crosses a border.

But the leg has been in regulatory limbo since 2010 as concerns from environmentalists about its potential for exacerbating climate change has caused the administration to keep a permit on ice.

Here’s the key chart from the report showing how many more greenhouse gases would be emitted if the pipeline got developed, against a baseline estimate if the project were scuttled. Basically, it’s the volume of the emissions if the pipeline carried its projected 830,000 barrels per day versus if those same 830,000 barrels somehow never got developed. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much. And again, State says those barrels are probably going to be produced anyway.

The project now awaits a “national security determination” from the Obama administration. There is no set date for that determination to be made.

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