WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration's environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline issued on Friday said the project would not likely speed the development of Canada's oil sands, essentially discounting one the major concerns of the duct's opponents.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to make the final decision on TransCanada Corp's 830,000 barrels per day pipeline later this year after eight federal agencies weigh whether Keystone is in the country's national security interest.
Below are major findings of the State Department's 11-volume final environmental review it issued on Friday.
OIL SANDS DEVELOPMENT
A single project like the Keystone XL pipeline will only speed up the pace of development of Alberta's oil sands under a very narrow condition, the report said.
Only if U.S. oil prices fell to around $70 a barrel, about $27 less than today's price, there were long-term constraints on new pipelines being built, and if there were higher transportation costs as a result, "there could be a substantial impact on oil sands production levels," the study said. Essentially, the report confirms the findings of the State Department's draft study released in March that said the oil will find its way to market whether or not Keystone is built.
EMISSIONS FROM CANADA'S OIL SANDS
Due to the energy-intensive production of the oil sands, Canadian crude emits about 17 percent more greenhouse gases than average oil refined in the United States, the study said. In addition, Canadian crude is about 2 to 10 percent more greenhouse gas intensive than heavy oil from Mexico and Venezuela currently refined in Texas and Louisiana.
The study did not conclude that the pipeline would not significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. But it does say that trains, which could be used more to transport the oil if Keystone is not built, pollute more than pipelines.
BURYING BEETLE, ENDANGERED SPECIES
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services identified 11 federally protected species that could be affected by the pipeline. The American burying beetle is the only species that is likely to be hurt by the project, the study said. Government workers have taken steps to remove populations of the beetles from the 875-mile path of the proposed pipeline through the middle of the country.
Oil spills from Keystone could reach groundwater supplies. If oil from a large spill enters a river or a lake the extent of the spill could become "very large, potentially affecting soil, wildlife, and vegetation," the study said. Because Canadian oil is heavy, sinking oil can become deposited in a river or stream and be a continual source of oil release over time, it added.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner)