By Northern Plains Resource Council
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline released by the U.S. State Department today is far from final.
Montana still has to issue a state permit and decide whether to grant the safety and landowner conditions requested by the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group (NPPLG); National Interest Determination hearings still need to be held in states crossed by the pipeline and in Washington, D.C., and the State Department and President Obama have to decide whether to permit the pipeline if it is in the national interest.
The release of the final analysis of environmental impacts for Keystone XL has been long-awaited by emergency responders in areas crossed by the pipeline, landowners along the route, and others concerned about the impacts of this project.
NPPLG, a committee of the Northern Plains Resource Council, is a group of landowners crossed by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline who have organized to negotiate with the company an equitable contract that protects landowners and public safety.
“I hope that the final EIS is better than the original and supplemental EIS, both of which had many flaws, faults, and wrong information, and did not cover proper reclamation of lands” said Irene Moffett, a Glendive-area landowner crossed by the proposed pipeline and who is a member of Northern Plains and NPPLG. “I hope the final EIS will require them to have the Emergency Response Plan in place before they start building the pipeline. I will also be looking for requirements to make the roads safer, in the face of the coming heavy construction traffic.”
Today’s Final EIS fails to provide an Emergency Response Plan, or include a full review of the safety of tar sands pipelines to determine whether the current regulations are adequate for this type of highly corrosive oil. It also does not demonstrate the U.S.’s need for the Keystone XL pipeline – it focuses more on TransCanada’s need. It does admit that a lot of the product will be exported and not actually be for American consumption.
The 14 spills in the first year of operation for TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline, which is similar in purpose, construction and operation to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, leave no question that current regulations need updating before TransCanada builds another pipeline. The Final EIS predicts a frequency of spills of any size from 1.78 to 2.51 spills per year on this pipeline.
“I hope that in light of the Exxon pipeline spill on the Yellowstone River, we have learned our lesson about how deep pipelines need to be buried. The plan up until now has been to only bury the Keystone XL pipeline 25 feet under major river crossings, including the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, even though there have been places of deep erosion on the Missouri River this season of 100 feet,” said Ed Gulick, Chair of Northern Plains Resource Council. “I’m interested to see if the final EIS mandates a safer burial depth, but I fear it doesn’t. This pipeline is to cross the Missouri right down from the Fort Peck dam.”
Don Brown, NPPLG member and landowner along the Keystone XL route in McCone County, Montana, expressed concerns about what happens at the end of the pipeline’s life.
“The first two versions of the EIS didn’t address abandonment at all,” said Brown. “The final EIS refers to the pipe being abandoned in place. So at that point, who is liable for problems associated with a rotting pipeline under my land – at that point, does the liability remain with my children? Our government is shoving the burden of the pipe onto the future generation of landowners in eastern Montana, it’s a dirty legacy.”
The State Department will hold a hearing in Glendive on September 27 to take public comments on the Final EIS and whether the pipeline is in the national interest. Written comments will be accepted until October 9.
See http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/clientsite/keystonexl.nsf?Open for more information.
 It doesn’t, it only requires them to have it in place before operation – see Final EIS page ES-9.
 Final EIS, Appendix A page 66-68
 Final EIS, page ES-8
 Final EIS, page ES-8
 Final EIS, page 2-64