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Keystone XL pipeline passes final US environmental review

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Pipeline (wikimedia commons)
Pipeline (wikimedia commons)

Final results from the State Department's environmental analysis of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline were released today and raised no major objections, moving the project one step closer to reality. In its report, the State Department says the project is "unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas," a key detail that could have halted future development.

Still requires further review and approval

The document is a follow-up to a draft released last March that also said the pipeline would not have a "huge impact" on the environment. That recommendation was based on estimates that there would be no change to the rate in which oil sands development or crude oil refinery occurred. The State Department says it's since taken into account 1.5 million comments on the draft, and has expanded its analysis on climate change, the chance of spills, economics, and the possibility of using rail transport instead.

The project would build a 1,179 mile long pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska in the US, a system designed to funnel some 830,000 barrels of oil from north to south each day. That pipeline would link up to an existing section of US pipeline developed to deliver the crude to refineries in the Gulf Coast. The multi-billion dollar proposal was immediately met with reservation from environmental groups, who worried about potential global warming effects from extracting the oil, as well as disruptions to local wildlife. Proponents have instead focused on new job creation, increased revenues, and the benefits of weaning the US off foreign oil.

The report now goes into a 90-day review period involving other government agencies, and requires a go-ahead by President Obama. Last June Obama said he'd veto the project if the report found that the pipeline would lead to extra carbon emissions.