Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Keystone pipeline: Highlights of environmental review

The construction of the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline in Sumner, Tex.

TONY GUTIERREZ/AP

OIL SANDS DEVELOPMENT

A single project like the Keystone XL pipeline would speed up the pace of development of Alberta's oil sands only under a very narrow condition, the report said.

If U.S. oil prices fell to about $70 a barrel, around $27 less than today, long-term constraints were put on new pipelines, and transportation costs were higher as a result, "there could be a substantial impact on oil sands production levels," the study said. Essentially, the report confirms the State Department's draft study in March that said the oil will get to market with or without Keystone.

Story continues below advertisement

OIL SANDS EMISSIONS

Due to the energy-intensive production, oil sands crude emits about 17 per cent more greenhouse gases than average oil refined in the United States, the study said. In addition, Canadian crude is 2 to 10 per cent more greenhouse-gas intensive than heavy oil from Mexico and Venezuela currently refined in Texas and Louisiana.

The study did not say the pipeline would not contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions, but that trains, an alternative, pollute more than pipelines.

OIL BY RAIL

Lengthy delays on the proposed pipeline have contributed to a rapid increase in the movement of crude oil by rail. The report estimates railways could ship 1.1 million barrels of Canadian crude per day by the end of 2014.

Approval of Keystone could hurt unit train terminal operators and rail companies like Canadian Pacific and Canadian National. But the report notes railways could have trouble meeting demand in the short-term if U.S. and Canadian regulators toughen safety regulations on tank cars.

ENDANGERED SPECIES

Story continues below advertisement

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services identified 11 federally protected species that could be affected by the pipeline. The American burying beetle is the only species is likely to be hurt, the study said. Government workers have taken steps to remove populations from the 1,400 kilometre path of the project.

SPILLS

If oil from a large spill enters a river or a lake, the impact could be "very large, potentially affecting soil, wildlife, and vegetation," the study said. Heavy oil in a river or stream can be released gradually, it added.

With files from Reuters

Report an error
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.