Keystone sides rush to meet deadline

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The State Department is being flooded with hundreds of thousands of public comments as interest groups try to make it under a Friday deadline to weigh in on State’s review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The 30-day public comment period ends on Friday, after which agencies will have 60 days to discuss whether the $5.4 billion pipeline is in the national interest. 

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Environmental groups are trying to highlight the issue with the submission of comments from more than 1 million people on Friday. Activists and environmentalists, including the groups CREDO, Energy Action Coalition, Sierra Club and 350.org, will march the comments over on Friday.

“If Secretary Kerry truly believes that climate change is a weapon of mass destruction — then he must oppose the carbon bomb that is Keystone XL,” said Elijah Zarlin, senior campaign manager at CREDO.

Zarlin also suggested demonstrators are prepared to be arrested if President Obama approves the pipeline.

“Secretary Kerry inherited a mess in the State Department's evaluation process, and more than 86,000 Americans stand ready to risk arrest if he fails to recognize the climate impact of this disastrous project.”

Green groups argue the pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta's oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, would exacerbate carbon emissions and expand the production of oil sands. Lawmakers like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) argue emissions from the pipeline and the excess oil it transports to be refined would cause cancer and heart disease. 

State's environmental impact statement, which was released earlier this year, says otherwise.

It concluded Keystone would not significantly add to carbon emissions, which cause climate change. It also stated that neither approval nor denial of the project would stop production of the oil sands in Canada. 

Strong advocates of the pipeline like the oil and gas industry will submit comments of their own on Friday, 

The American Petroleum Institute, a prominent oil and gas lobby, will send more than 500,000 comments from a dozen organizations supporting the pipeline.

“The needlessly long review of the Keystone XL pipeline continues to deprive thousands of Americans of good-paying jobs and the nation of a vital piece of energy infrastructure,” said API’s Cindy Schild.

“At year six, and counting, of the administration’s review, support among policymakers and the public continues to grow. To make sure the president hears the American people, we will deliver more than 500,000 comments to the State Department urging the president to approve the pipeline,” Schild said. 

On top of the oil lobby's submission, more than 500,000 comments will be sent to State by the Consumer Energy Alliance, a ratepayer advocate group. 

After the national determination review wraps up, Kerry will send his recommendation to President Obama, who will then be able to make a decision.

Obama recently told governors visiting the White House a decision on the project would be made in the coming months. Neither Kerry nor Obama have hinted which way they would swing on the pipeline but however Obama rules, if it comes before the midterms, it might make or break a number of races for Democrats.