The Environmental Protection Agency urged the State Department to reconsider its conclusion on the impact of the Keystone XL pipeline on climate change.
In January 2014, the State Department declared that the pipeline would not affect climate change because the oil would be transported to market one way or another, either through rail or pipe, regardless of whether or not the pipeline was approved.
“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands,” the department’s review said.
The EPA is advising that the conclusion be questioned now that oil prices are at a six-year low. The agency said the State Department’s stance was “based in large part on the projections of the global price of oil” at the time.
“President Obama has all the information he needs to reject Keystone XL, and today’s comments from EPA make us more confident than ever that he will continue to build on his incredible climate leadership by rejecting this dirty and dangerous pipeline once and for all,” League of Conservation Voters vice president Tiernan SIttenfield said in a statement.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to comment on whether or the pressure from the EPA would affect the Obama administration’s evaluation of the project.
“The president has laid out his own clear criteria about how he believes the project should be evaluated, and, as a part of the process of collecting input from relevant agencies across the federal government, the EPA put out their own supplemental environmental impact study,” Earnest said. “I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of that process until the State Department has had an opportunity to evaluate the input from all of the federal agencies.”
Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline said that the EPA’s comments were nothing more than “political play.”
“Suggesting that the drop in oil prices requires a re-evaluation of the environmental impact of the project is just another attempt to prolong the KXL review,” American Petroleum Institute executive vice president Louis Finkel said.
President Obama previously vowed to veto the Keystone bill once the House inevitably approves it next week, though Republicans are not expected to have enough votes to override a presidential veto. Republican Senator John Hoeven, who authored the Keystone XL bill, said he believes that the EPA’s comments were released in an effort to offer “cover” for the President’s potential rejection.
“Yesterday the State Department said nobody was going to release their comments, none of the agencies, and then today the EPA releases it,” Hoeven said. “So clearly it was just messaging for the president to give him some flexibility on his decision.”