Today the US State Department announced in its final supplemental environmental impact statement that the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would pump 830,000 barrels/day of high-carbon, dirty oil from Canada to the United States, would have a negligible impact on climate change. Seriously? Well, that’s what the document concludes. Though the State Department acknowledges that the construction and operation of the pipeline would boost the dirty tar sands sector and contribute to climate change, the scale of the impacts unfortunately is greatly downplayed.
So, what does this mean for New England? The risks to our region’s efforts to reduce climate pollution are very real. While the Keystone Pipeline would be physically located across the country and most of the tar sands-derived product it delivers would be exported, its impacts would be felt here. As detailed in NRDC’s recent report, What’s in Your Tank? Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States Need to Reject Tar Sands and Support Clean Fuels, if the Keystone XL pipeline goes forward, it is likely that some of the tar sands delivered to Gulf Coast refineries will end up being sent to the Northeast. Between Keystone and the proposed Portland-Montreal pipeline, the Northeast unfortunately is primed for high-carbon tar sands to enter our transportation fuel mix imminently. And if these projects move forward, as much as 18 percent of the region’s petroleum-based fuel supply could be derived from tar sands by 2020.
The New England states must heed this urgent wake up call – tar sands are coming, and if we do nothing the impacts will be devastating. To avoid backsliding from the important policy efforts to reduce carbon pollution reduction in place across New England, our policymakers must pursue clean fuels policies to hold the line against dirty tar sands fuel threatening our regional transportation energy mix and our clean energy future.