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U.S. House Approves Keystone XL

Feb. 11 was a busy day for the Keystone XL pipeline as TransCanada’s project received the necessary votes from the U.S. House of Representatives to send the bill to the president’s desk.

Though the 270-152 victory, with 29 Democrats voting for the project, indicates continued bipartisan support for the project, the vote lacked the super majority required to overcome President Barack Obama’s veto.

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Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, applauded the legislation’s approval and thanked the bipartisan co-sponsors in both the U.S. House and Senate for the bipartisan support of the issue.

“Democrats and Republicans in the House have now joined their colleagues in the Senate to approve this pipeline,” Gerard said. “The American people want the 42,000 jobs this pipeline would create. This bipartisan effort shows that Congress is listening to their constituents. We continue to urge the president to reconsider his veto threat, support the will of the people and prove that Washington can govern and enact meaningful energy policy.”

The same day it should have been rejoicing another bipartisan victory, TransCanada issued a response letter to the U.S. Department of State refuting many of the EPA’s comments about the Department of State’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for Keystone XL. Copies of both letters are linked at the bottom of this post.

Though the FSEIS was complete for some time, the EPA delayed its response while the project made its way through the Nebraska courts.

In the Feb. 2 letter to the Department of State, Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, acknowledged that since the April 2013 Draft SEIS, both the Department of State and TransCanada made progress in addressing concerns the EPA raised.

Most notably the environment impact of spills and how those emergencies would be addressed.

“The final SEIS is comprehensive and provides responses to our April 2013 comments on the Draft SEIS,” Giles wrote. “We would like to especially point out the usefulness of the new compilation of all of the proposed mitigation measures (Appendix Z).”

Though Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO, was pleased with this response, he was in disagreement with the bulk of the response.

Among other things, in her letter Giles wrote that the environmental impact should be reassessed based on fluctuating oil prices, suggesting that with lower oil prices developers in the oil sands would increase the production flowing through the proposed pipeline. This in turn would lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

“We also reject the EPA’s inference that at lower oil prices, Keystone XL will increase the rate of oil sands production and greenhouse gas emissions. This conclusion is not supported by the conclusions drawn in the FSEIS or by actual market prices and production rates since TransCanada first applied for Keystone XL in 2008,” Girling said. “Nevertheless, we will assist State in reviewing the issues raised by the EPA related to current low oil prices and their impact on greenhouse gas emissions associated with the pipeline should State determine that further review is required.”

Some pundits see the EPA response letter as ammunition that the president needs to veto the project based on its environmental impact.

EPA Response Letter

TransCanada Response Letter

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