As secretary of state, Kerry would oversee the department’s environmental review of the project. The State Department has authority over cross-border pipelines and is expected to release its supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) any day now.
The statement will help officials determine whether the pipeline is in the “national interest,” a term that includes economic, energy security and climate change considerations. After it is released, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies will have a chance to weigh in on it.
The EPA criticized the State Department for failing to properly address the pipeline’s climate change impacts in two previous environmental reviews of the project.
Bob Deans, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said it’s critical that the State Department's next SEIS address the project’s effect on the climate. The dilbit that the pipeline would carry emits about 20 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil through the stages of extraction, production and usage. Earlier this week, a Greenpeace study found that Canadian tar sands production is the fifth most carbon-intensive project in the world.
“At the top of the [department’s] list has to be the impact on climate,” Deans said. He added that, given Kerry’s leadership on climate action in the past, “we hope and expect him to recommend [the pipeline] be denied.”
The Keystone XL’s southern segment, called the Gulf Coast project, doesn’t need the State Department’s approval because it doesn’t cross national borders. More than one-quarter of the southern section is already installed.