Keystone developer rebuts EPA

The company planning to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline said there’s no reason to reevaluate its environmental impacts.

TransCanada Corp. said in a letter to the State Department released Wednesday that the federal government has “fully and completely” evaluated the potential impacts, and there’s no need to reexamine that conclusion in light of the six-year low in oil trading prices.

The letter came in response to comments that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent to State last week saying that Keystone might spur additional development of Canada’s oil sands — and cause carbon dioxide emissions — that wouldn’t happen without it because of low oil prices.

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“These conclusions are not supported by the facts outlined in the [environmental impact statement] or actual observations of the marketplace since TransCanada submitted its first application for the project in 2008,” TransCanada chief Russ Girling wrote to top State officials Tuesday. The company released the letter Tuesday.

The EPA’s letter provided ammunition for environmentalists opposed to the project. Both Keystone’s backers and opponents agreed that it could give President Obama political cover for if he decides to reject the pipeline’s permits.

The agency said that State’s environment assessment was based on oil prices of $65 a barrel at a minimum, not the $50 or so in more recent trading. Building Keystone might provide an economic incentive to mine the expensive oil sands, the EPA said.

But Girling argued that Canada’s oil sands are being developed regardless of Keystone.

“Even with price volatility, oil has been making its way to market,” he wrote. “Oil sands and U.S. Bakken production are both up by one million barrels per day since 2008. So it is clear that building or not building Keystone XL will not cause production to go up or down nor does the pipeline significantly exacerbate the problem of GHG emissions.”