Keystone XL Pipeline Will Cripple Clean Energy Future 41 Northeast Groups Tell U.S.

06-09-2011 // Tony Iallonardo

Forty one Northeastern conservation groups, representing close to 1 million area residents, are expressing strong opposition to a controversial tar sands pipeline known as Keystone XL. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they emphasize the massive greenhouse gases the pipeline will generate and the damage it would do to the Obama Administration’s clean energy aspirations. About 260,000 Americans have written to the State Department opposing the proposal. State has jurisdiction over the pipeline because it crosses an international boundary.

Click to jump to the full letter

On the final day of the State Department’s SDEIS public comment period, public interest groups from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Maine, among others, submitted a letter to Secretary Clinton, strongly recommending that she deny a request from TransCanada Corporation for a Presidential Permit to construct the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. National groups sponsored a telepress conference echoing some of the concerns in the letter.

Listen to the conference here: LISTEN

Keep It Clean

“Dirty tar sands is a Northeast issue. It is the exact opposite of the future Northeast taxpayers and businesses have invested in and support,” stated Curtis Fisher, Regional Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation, Northeast Regional Center. “Time and time again Northeast residents and our thoughtful elected officials have made the difference in stopping destructive projects like tar sands in a distance land.”

Fisher cited protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and protecting the Pacific Northwest’s old growth forests as recent conservation victories championed in the Northeast. “The 41 groups from across the Northeast are showing that leadership again,” he said.

Offshore wind turbine

While it straddles the Midwest from Canada to Texas, Northeast groups signing the letter say, “Tar sands are the first of many dirty fuels that are coming to the Northeast, from liquid coal to oil shale,” and, as such, building the pipeline is “not just an issue for the states impacted by the pipeline route.”

The letter goes on to say that State Department approval of the pipeline would roll back progress made by Northeastern states on clean energy and climate, such the Northeast Clean Fuel Standard, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and adoption of California emissions standards.

“Residents and businesses across the Northeast want to get off oil and build a clean energy future,” stated Daniel Gatti, Staff Attorney, Environment America. “The last thing we need is to rely on even more destructive sources of fuel, such as tar sands sent down from Alberta, Canada in the proposed XL pipeline.”

Letter & Signees

June 6, 2011

United States Department of State

Keystone XL EIS Project

P.O. Box 96503-98500

Washington, D.C. 20090-6503

Secretary Hillary Clinton: The signed organizations from across the Northeast, with over 1 million members and supporters, stand opposed to the Keystone XL “tar sands” pipeline. We urge you to deny the Presidential Permit because this project is not in our national interest. Indeed, it is a major step in the wrong direction for our energy future, and long-term economic and environmental well-being.

TransCanada, a Canadian oil company, has proposed a pipeline called Keystone XL. The XL pipeline would carry up to 900,000 barrels of dirty fuel per day from operations in Alberta, Canada, more than 2,000 miles to refineries on the Gulf Coast. At the cost of approximately $7 billion, the Keystone XL pipeline will create the infrastructure necessary to transport this dirty fuel for 50 years. Producing just one barrel of tar sands oil requires:

• Extracting at least four tons of earth, half of which is tar sands.

• Contaminating two to four barrels of freshwater to separate the oil from the sand.

• Releasing at least three times more global warming pollution than conventional oil.

• Creating toxic tailing ponds that are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world. The ponds span 50 square kilometers –about twice the size of Manhattan – and can be seen from space.

The recently published Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement does not make up for the deficiencies of the 2010 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Both documents fail to demonstrate a need for this pipeline by inadequately assessing alternatives or analyzing the full impacts of the proposed pipeline. Highlights of our concerns with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline include:

The XL Pipeline Would Cripple our Country’s Chance for a Job Producing-Clean Energy Future

The SDEIS ignores the Department of Energy’s finding that if the United States adopts more aggressive fuel economy standards and policies to address vehicle miles traveled, our Gulf refineries would not need an expansion of tar sands pipelines. To make matters worse, the SDEIS specifically states “use of alternative energy sources and energy conservation in meeting needs for transportation fuel are not considered an alternative to the proposed Project.” SDEIS at 4-18. This statement makes a mockery of any national commitment to achieving a clean energy future. A clean energy future will not be realized if this country continues to invest in dirty fuels. If the XL pipeline is approved, critical investment dollars needed in the Northeast and across the country will be diverted to dirty fuel technology and away from clean energy.

The XL Pipeline Would Roll Back the Northeast’s Progress in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Northeast has been a leader in reducing emissions from stationary and transportation sources, from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to the adoption of the California car emission standards. Unfortunately, this progress will be placed in jeopardy by the construction of a dirty fuel infrastructure. Greenhouse gas emissions know no boundaries. President Obama recently acknowledged this fact, saying: “What we know is that oil sands create a big carbon footprint. So the dilemma that Canada faces, the United States faces, and China and the entire world faces is how do we obtain the energy that we need to grow our economies in a way that is not rapidly accelerating climate change.” Northeast residents want a clean transportation future, from public transportation to electric vehicles. The XL pipeline is a massive investment in a polluting transportation sector.

The XL Pipeline Contradicts the Northeast’s Progress on a Clean Fuel Standard

Northeast residents, struggling with high gasoline prices, want to end their almost sole reliance on oil for transportation. The proposed XL pipeline will continue this addiction. In contrast, the development of a regional clean fuel standard would help to reduce energy prices and establish competition in the oil marketplace. In short, our Northeast economy is extremely vulnerable to oil price volatility. The Northeast clean fuel standard will create incentives for electric, advanced biofuels and other technologies that will directly compete with oil and thus create a more stable market. Northeast Residents Are Opposed to the Destruction of Boreal Forests While many Northeast residents have never visited Canada’s unique boreal forests, we stand united against its destruction and the impact its destruction will have on the region’s indigenous populations. And we all benefit from the carbon the boreal forest sequesters, the oxygen it supplies, and the habitat it provides to species that migrate through the Northeast. Specifically, the SDEIS does not analyze the impacts of strip-mining and drilling Alberta’s boreal forests for tar sands which include vast toxic waste dumps, destruction of wildlife habitat including vital migratory bird nesting habitat, water and air pollution, and potential health impacts on downstream communities.

The SDEIS Fails to Provide Adequate Public Hearings and Comment Period

The Department of State should have scheduled public hearings across the country, including in the Northeast, due to the sheer magnitude of the climate change impacts which will affect the entire country. In addition, 45 days to comment on the SEIS document is completely inadequate for so complex and important of a matter. We urge you to extend the comment period to a minimum of 90 days which is standard with similar projects. The SDEIS Fails to to Consider Alternate Routes to Avoid One of This Country’s Most Important Groundwater Aquifers Nebraska Senators, legislators, farmers and citizens have urged the State Department to consider alternate routes that would avoid the fragile and treasured Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer – the source of freshwater for over 2 million Americans. Yet, the SDEIS does not analyze reasonable alternate routes that would avoid potential impacts to these sensitive regions, as required by NEPA.

The SDEIS Fails to Address Pipeline Safety

The SDEIS did not adequately analyze pipeline safety issues of diluted bitumen (raw tar sands) pipelines. While the analysis acknowledges that the Keystone XL pipeline system could spill as much as 1.7 million gallons of diluted bitumen a day without triggering the real-time leak detection system, it then glosses over other concerns raised in a recent pipeline safety report.


The proposed XL pipeline will undermine America and the Northeast’s effort to develop a clean energy future. If built, Keystone XL will lock us into a future in which our nation is dependent on one of the dirtiest and costliest fuels in the world. The undersigned organizations stand united against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and urge you to reject it.

Clean Air Cool Planet; The Conservation Law Foundation; Delaware River Network; National Wildlife Federation Northeast Regional Center; Natural Resources Defense Council; Connecticut Forest and Park Association; Connecticut Fund for the Environment; Environment Connecticut; Natural Resources Council of Maine; RESTORE; The North Woods; Environmental League of Massachusetts; Environment Massachusetts; Environment New Hampshire; New Hampshire Audubon; New Hampshire Green Coalition; New Hampshire Sierra Club; Environment New Jersey; New Jersey Audubon; New Jersey Environmental Federation; New Jersey Sierra Club; Audubon New York; Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Environmental Advocates of New York; Environment New York; New York Public Interest Research Group; Pace Energy and Climate Center; Renewable Energy Long Island; Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture); Environment Pennsylvania; Audubon Society of Rhode Island; Environment Council of Rhode Island; Sierra Club Rhode Island; Environment Rhode Island; Rhode Island Jobs with Justice; Science & Environmental Health Network; Environment Maine; Vermont League of Conservation Voters; Vermont Natural Resources Council; Vermont Public Interest Research Group; Vermont Sierra Club