Environmental Review Didn’t Include Endangered Species Input from Fish and Wildlife Service
WASHINGTON (August 26, 2011) – The final environmental impact review of the Keystone XL pipeline has been released today by the U.S. State Department, but it does not include input from the Fish and Wildlife Service on the potential impacts to endangered species such as whooping cranes. Because of this glaring omission, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) expressed his deep concern over the project and the review process, and asked the State Department to justify its determination that the oil pipeline will result in no adverse environmental effects when endangered wildlife was apparently not even considered.
By concluding that the pipeline will have minimal environmental impact, absent the expert opinion from our government’s wildlife experts, it appears that the State Department has not taken a comprehensive look at the potential impacts of this project to our nation’s most vulnerable wildlife,” writes Rep. Markey, the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over endangered species and energy issues. “Given recent oil spills from pipelines across the country, the impacts to wildlife from possible spills along the Keystone XL pipeline route cannot be ignored.”
The full letter, sent to Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, is available HERE .
The State Department conducted an environmental review of the pipeline, which would deliver oil from Canadian tar sands. Tar sands require huge amounts of energy and water to extract the oil, making it one of the world’s dirtiest fuels. Part of this review process should have included full compliance with the Endangered Species Act, which requires input from the Fish and Wildlife Service. As Rep. Markey notes in the letter, the wildlife agency has not yet provided their analysis to the State Department.
In the letter, Rep. Markey notes that there are at least ten endangered species that may be impacted by this project, including the whooping crane. After decades of work to recover the whooping crane, the wild population of the cranes has increased from just 15 individuals in 1940 to over 260 today. Each spring, whooping cranes migrate from Texas to their breeding grounds in Northern Canada.
The proposed pipeline route falls within the migration corridor for the crane and the will cross the Platte River dangerously close to one of most important feeding and resting locations during the cranes’ 5000-mile annual migration route,” writes Rep. Markey. “As the State Department moves towards its final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, I urge you consider the threats to endangered species to the fullest extent possible.
The letter also notes the multiple pipeline accidents that have occurred in recent years as cause for caution. In early July, a 12 inch pipeline breached under the Yellowstone River in Montana, and within hours, more than 40,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Yellowstone River. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is three times as large and will carry 600,000 barrels of oil per day at full capacity.  In the last two years, there have been five other oil spills within the United States, including from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and from other locations within the Keystone pipeline network. If a similar pipeline breach were to occur at the Platte River at the wrong time, the whooping crane could be put at severe risk of extinction.
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