Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) sent the following letter today to the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Robert Perciasepe, requesting the EPA reconsider its comments on the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline project: 

Dear Administrator Perciasepe:

I am concerned about the content and tone of your recent comment letter to the State Department regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.  I recognize that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was legally required to submit its review of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  However, some of the conclusions reached in the letter appear to be a regurgitation of the environmental lobby’s talking points rather than an honest assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline project.  The EPA should base its assessments on science and real world scenarios.  Instead, this letter marks the latest attempt by the EPA to be the governmental arm of the environmental lobby. 

The EPA suggests that the State Department overestimates the feasibility of bringing oil to the marketplace without the approval of Keystone XL.  The EPA’s belief is that other transportation methods will not be able to meet the same delivery capacity as Keystone, and therefore, would not have the same greenhouse gas (GHG) emission impact.

But TransCanada has stated that this oil will be procured and shipped regardless of the approval of Keystone XL.  Canada is home to the third largest oil reserves in the world, and in tapping this valuable natural resource, it will look for ways to bring the Canadian oil sands to market.  Transportation by rail, ship, and other pipelines are all possibilities, and the global demand for oil likely ensures these methods will be maximized and expanded.  It is naïve of the EPA to suggest that, if the United States does not buy Canadian oil, it simply won’t be sold.

The Keystone XL pipeline is not the linchpin to increased GHG emissions that would result from extracting the oil from the Canadian oil sands.  Other potential customers will fill the void in the marketplace if the United States balks at approving the pipeline.  China had already indicated it is a willing buyer of the Canadian oil to meet its growing energy needs.  To suggest that the State Department is overestimating the potential global marketplace for this oil is to completely misunderstand the world’s growing energy needs.

In the letter, the EPA is also critical of the State Department for not providing enough detail about alternative routes for the pipeline.  The siting of oil pipelines, even those that cross state borders, is typically under the jurisdiction of the states.  The federal government is only involved in this project because it crosses an international border.  

The Keystone XL pipeline’s route has already been altered to address the environmental concerns of officials in Nebraska.  This reroute led to the approval of the project by Nebraska, resulting in all states through which the pipeline will run approving its construction.  In the spirit of federalism, the EPA should accept that these states have met their obligation to review the pipeline and drop its objection to the State Department’s review of alternative routes.

The EPA’s criticism of the pipeline’s safety is also objectionable.  At the State Department’s request, TransCanada has added 57 special safety measures for spill detection and mitigation.  According to TransCanada, these measures include an increased number of remote shut off valves, greater inspections, and burying the pipeline deeper underground.  These actions go far beyond what has been expected of any pipeline previously built in the United States. 

In a time of debt, deficits, and sequesters, the EPA should base any reviews on science and facts.  Working to provide political cover for the President should he cave to the environmental lobby is an inappropriate use of the EPA’s time and resources.  Please reconsider the EPA’s comments to the State Department’s EIS.   


Member of Congress