EPA chief: Pipeline rejections are not a ‘policy signal’

EPA chief: Pipeline rejections are not a ‘policy signal’
© Getty

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Monday that the Obama administration’s rejections of high-profile oil pipelines do not reflect an overall policy against similar projects.

Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage Overnight Energy: Trump order to trim science panels sparks outrage | Greens ask watchdog to investigate Interior's records policies | EPA to allow use of pesticide harmful to bees MORE, who was nominated by President Obama and will leave the government with him Jan. 20, 2017, pushed back on the notion that the EPA or the White House objects to major oil pipelines as a whole.

ADVERTISEMENT

Her comments came the morning after the Army Corps of Engineers blocked construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota by denying a federal permit to build the line under a lake.

“I don’t think this is a policy signal. I think this is just a signal that issues have been raised that are of great concern to many people, and it’s appropriate that we use the current system to make sure that we’re looking at all environmental impacts,” McCarthy said Monday at a Christian Science Monitor event, adding that impacts on American Indian tribes are also of concern.

“It should not send a signal that that type of concern is applicable to a broad range of infrastructure decisions that are going to be made across this country to meet our energy needs,” McCarthy continued. “Nobody is asking for us to sacrifice our ability to maintain a reliable and cost-effective energy supply for the United States.”

McCarthy’s comments were also in reference to Obama’s November 2015 decision to block the Keystone XL pipeline.

Both decisions have energized environmentalists under the “keep it in the ground” movement, which hopes to shut down fossil fuel production and infrastructure projects so that less oil, natural gas and coal will be produced and used.

She cautioned that the projects were very different and needed different approvals, part of the reason why they should not be read as a major policy statement.

“It’s very clear that the most recent decision is simply a recognition that there could be a more robust process and should be right now. That’s entirely within the scope of current law,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think it is sending an overall policy statement on infrastructure.”

The Army Corps had the main authority over Dakota Access’s easement, although the EPA and other agencies weighed in as well.

The EPA said in April it had some concerns with the Army Corps’s environmental review, saying it should be revised to better analyze the potential impacts of spills on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The agency also weighed in on the Keystone project before it was finished, including to warn the State Department that it had likely underestimated the greenhouse gas emissions the pipeline would cause.