The department will have to conduct a 90-day review of whether the project is in the “national interest” before deciding whether to allow the pipeline to go through.
“This is not the rubber stamp for this project,” Jones told reporters. “It should not be seen as a lean in any direction, either for or against this pipeline.”
Still, the conclusion of the 2 1/2-year-long review is significant because the primary objection raised against the pipeline is its potential environmental impact — during construction and in case of ruptures during operation — on wildlife, land and drinking water supplies.
In addition, the proposed pipeline, which could transport as much as 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada’s “tar sands” or “oil sands” fields to refineries in the Gulf Coast, has sparked an outcry from environmentalists in both countries on the grounds that the extraction of oil will increase emissions linked to climate change.
Oil sands contain a viscous oil called bitumen in formations of sand, clay and water, and to extract it, companies expend more energy and water than they do to tap other crude deposits.
Activists have mounted daily sit-ins for a week at the White House to protest the project, resulting in 376 arrests so far.
Jones said State officials concluded “there would be no significant impact to most resources along the proposed pipeline corridor,” though she added some American Indian culture resources and the endangered American burying beetle could be affected. The pipeline’s sponsor, TransCanada, will work with American Indian tribes to monitor and minimize the project’s impact and had proposed measures to compensate for any toll its activities could have on the imperiled beetle, she said.
State Department officials looked at several options, including scrapping the project altogether and moving it to a different location. “The agency-preferred alternative is the proposed Project with various and minor route realignments,” officials wrote in the executive summary of the final environmental analysis.
TransCanada issued a statement saying the assessment, which is more than 1,000 pages long, “reaffirmed the environmental integrity of the project.”
“Today’s Final Environmental Impact Statement continues to demonstrate the focus on safety and the environment that has gone into the development of this critical North American pipeline,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer.