The EPA quotes DSEIS reports which indicates that the lifecycle GHG emissions from oil sands could be 81 percent greater than emissions from the average crude refined in the US. The incremental emissions from the oil sands crude would be 18.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent based on the project’s capacity of 830,000 barrels per day. Over a 50 year time span that could amount to 935 million metric tons.
The EPA letter goes on to question the veracity of the notion that in the absence of the Keystone XL, transportation of the oil sands would be done by rail. Transportation of the oil sands by rail entails higher costs and this could slow the transport of crude.
In terms of the mining of the oil sands, the EPA recommends working with the governments of Canada, specifically focusing on “pumping station energy efficiency and use of renewable energy, as well as investment in other carbon mitigation options.”
The EPA letter points to the greater risks associated with oil sand (bitumen or dilbit) spills.
“We have learned from the 2010 Enbridge spill of oil sands crude in Michigan that spills of diluted bitument may require different response actions or equipment from response actions for conventional oil spills. These spills can also have different impacts than spills of conventional oil. We recommend that these differences be more fully addressed”
The further point to the problems associated with bitumen oil spill in water noting, “it is possible that large portions of dilbit will sink and that submerged oil significantly changes spill response and impacts.”
The EPA cites DSEIS which recognizes that dissolved components like, “benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarns (PAHs) and heavy metals could be slowly released back into the water column for many years after a release and could cause long-term chronic toxicological impacts”
The letter specifically recognizes the threat to the Ogallala Aquifer posed by the pipeline They further ask the Department of State to provide an “opportunity for public review and comment”
The EPA’s letter urges the State to conduct a more thorough analysis of oil spill risks and alternative pipeline routes, as well as greenhouse gas emissions associated with the $7 billion pipeline.
The State Department is planning to conduct additional analysis and will incorporate comments from the public and other federal agencies into a final environmental report expected this summer. President Obama said in late 2011 that he would decide the pipeline’s fate, and a final decision is expected by summer.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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