Keystone XL: Friends of the Earth files for release of State Department records surrounding EIS revisions
FOIA request underscores lingering questions about integrity of KXL review process
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Friends of the Earth filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding the expedited release of all communication by State Department staff between January 31, 2014 and June 1, 2014 surrounding changes made to the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline.
On June 6*, the State Department published revisions to Keystone XL’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Among other corrections, the revised text included increased projections of deaths that would occur in a scenario characterized by greater traffic of crude by rail as opposed to pipeline.
“These statistics are highly questionable, but more questionable still is what prompted the State Department to update these particular numbers while neglecting numbers that show how Keystone XL would catalyze an increase in emissions,” said Friends of the Earth’s Climate and energy associate Luísa Abbott Galvão. “This narrow play on numbers reflects an attempt to legitimize a false choice between two grim alternatives when scientists are telling us that fossil fuels must be kept in the ground to avoid further climate disruption.”
In August, Friends of the Earth and 11 other environmental, landowner and consumer groups sent a letter to the State Department. This letter requested that the department also assess new market evidence showing that Keystone XL would stimulate the development of the Canadian tar sands, increase carbon emissions and fail President Obama’s climate test. As the groups have argued since Keystone XL was first proposed, tar sands development would not only directly contribute to pollution and carbon emissions, but also signal to markets and governments that it is acceptable to invest billions in fossil fuel infrastructure when we urgently need to shift to clean, renewable energy.
“The State Department’s reliance on a contractor that is a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute casts suspicion on these selective and industry-serving corrections,” said Abbott Galvão. “It is important that the American people know what prompted the changes to ensure a democratically accountable public interest determination.”
The market developments alluded to in the coalition’s letter last month confirm that: 1) rail is not in fact a desirable industry alternative to pipelines for transporting tar sands because it is too expensive 2) the development of the tar sands are not inevitable; mining projects have already been cancelled because of lack of pipelines 3) building Keystone XL contradicts Obama’s climate commitment.
The State Department responded to the letter dismissively by saying the comment period is closed.
“The comment period may be closed for civil society organizations but it appears to remain very much open for industry lobbyists,” said Abbott Galvão.
Friends of the Earth’s FOIA requests:
- Any communications including contract(s) or agreement(s) between the State Department and Environmental Resources Management and/or between TransCanada pertaining to the content, compilation and release of the Errata Sheet for the Keystone XL Project Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
- Any documents, records and materials pertaining to the rail incident analysis.
- Any documents, records and materials pertaining to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Any documents, records and materials pertaining to mitigation measures.
*The press release previously listed this date as June 1. It has been updated to June 6 for accuracy.