Obama Draft EIS on Keystone XL Leans Toward Project Approval

April 2013, Vol. 68 No. 4

The State Department will be examining public comments before issuing a final EIS. It will then make a determination whether the Keystone XL project is in the public interest. The national interest determination by the Department involves consideration of many factors, including energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy; and compliance with relevant federal regulations and issues. That decision is not expected before September.

The August 2011 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) further notes that TransCanada has also agreed to adopt 57 special safety measures for the pipeline developed by the U.S. federal pipeline safety regulator (PHMSA), which the FEIS said would give the pipeline “a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current code.” Throughout 2012, TransCanada completed the process established by the state of Nebraska. TransCanada’s existing Keystone Pipeline has safely and reliably delivered more than 389 million barrels of crude oil from Canada to refinery markets in the U.S. Midwest since it began operation in July 2010.

Pipeline Adequacy Key Issue In EPA Decision
The adequacy of U.S. gas pipeline infrastructure is a major issue in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) effort to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electric utilities. The EPA has proposed what are called "New Source Performance Standards" which will dictate how much carbon dioxide and other GHGs electric utilities can emit. The proposal would require all new fossil fuel-based electric generation units (EGUs) to limit emissions to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt hour (lb CO2/MWh) as of the date of publication of the proposed NSPS, based on the emissions expected from a natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) unit.

No final rule has been issued by the EPA, which is waiting for a new administrator to take office. Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, has been nominated by President Obama to replace Lisa Jackson.

A number of utility groups are pressing the Obama administration to drop issuance of a final rule whose objective, essentially, is to prevent construction of any new coal-burning utilities until carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology is commercialized. That won't be for a few decades, however. Meanwhile, the EPA wants any new plants to use natural gas.