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TransCanada secretly moves forward with permits for Keystone XL southern segment amid EPA Region 6's previous objections

Posted May. 3, 2012 / Posted by: Kaitlin Froom

Memorandum

To: Journalists covering Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline

From: Lisa Matthes, Friends of the Earth: lmatthes@foe.org, 202-222-0730
Trevor Lovell, Public Citizen Texas: tlovell@citizen.org, 512-470-6572

Date: May 3, 2012

RE:  TransCanada secretly moves forward with permits for Keystone XL southern segment amid EPA Region 6’s previous objections

The Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed that Canadian oil firm TransCanada has submitted applications to Corps district offices in Tulsa, Galveston, and Ft. Worth for a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) to build the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma through Texas to the Gulf Coast.

TransCanada has pursued a NWP 12 to further evade a thorough, science-based review of its pipeline’s likely impacts. Its recent application submission triggers a 45-day deadline by which the Corps must approve or deny the permits. The Corps can approve or reject the permits before the 45 days are over but if the agency does not respond within the 45 days, the permits are automatically approved by default, allowing TransCanada to proceed with construction.

In a November 8, 2011 letter to the Galveston district office of the Army Corps of Engineers, EPA Region 6’s Associate Director in the Ecosystems Protection Division, Dr. Jane Watson, determined that the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline is ineligible for a NWP 12:

[O]f the 101 crossings that require preconstruction notification to the Corps, it appears that approximately 60 crossings of waters of the U.S. would each result in greater than a ½ acre loss of waters of the U.S., and would therefore not be eligible for authorization under NWP 12.

Dr. Watson’s letter further clarifies that individual Clean Water Act Section 404 permits are required for the southern segment of Keystone XL -- a permitting process that would ensure a minimum requirement of environmental review and public input through the National Environmental Policy Act. As Region 6 Administrator Dr. Al Armendariz has stepped down this week, it is imperative that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson intervene to ensure a permitting process for the southern segment that is transparent, science-based and rigorous as required by bedrock environmental law.

The Obama administration unconscionably gave its blessing to expedite the southern segment of the Keystone XL in March, despite widespread public outcry from national and local environmental, public interest, indigenous and landowner groups. Despite acknowledging the severe risks to the Ogallala Aquifer in delaying approval for Keystone XL in November, President Obama shamelessly ignored the southern segment’s potential impacts on the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Texas, which provides drinking water to more than 10 million Texans.

Adding to the appearance of an opaque and furtive process overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, landowners and citizens all along the proposed pipeline’s path from Oklahoma and Texas have been stonewalled by the agency in their simple requests for information regarding the application, timeline, and process for TransCanada’s southern segment permits. The public has the right to know the particulars of a process through which a pipeline that would have massive impacts on land, water, public health and our shared climate may be approved any day now.

As the key segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, the southern leg of Keystone XL would provide the crucial link to relieving the current glut of tar sands oil in the Midwest by piping it down to refineries and international shipping ports on the Gulf Coast for export. The project would inflate oil industry profits while threatening our heartland with costly spills, amplifying the already-debilitating air pollution in refinery communities on the Gulf Coast, and vastly drive the expansion of climate-destabilizing tar sands development and consumption.

The EPA Region 6 letter is attached with this memorandum for your reference: http://libcloud.s3.amazonaws.com/93/31/d/1428/EPA_Region_6_letter.pdf

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Friends of the Earth fights to defend the environment and create a more healthy and just world. We’re progressives who confront economic factors fueling ecological destruction and injustice and who don’t shy from speaking sometimes uncomfortable truths to power. Our campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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