A.G. Schneiderman Faults U.S. State Department For Failing To Fully Analyze Climate Change Impact Of Keystone Xl And Related Pipelines On New York State

Complete Analysis Would Reveal Oil Pipelines Responsible For 14 Times More Climate Change Pollution As The Entire State Of New York Emits In One Single Year

By Ignoring Full Brunt Of Projects' Impact On Climate Change, Federal Environmental Assessment Fails To Account For All Economic, Safety And Health Dangers

A.G. Schneiderman: New Yorkers Have Experienced First-Hand The Devastation That Will Only Worsen With Unabated Climate Change -- We Deserve Better

 

NEW YORK -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman faulted the U.S. State Department for failing to fully analyze the impacts that climate change pollution from the proposed Keystone XL and related oil pipelines will have on New York and across the United States. The Attorney General’s submitted his official comments earlier this weekcriticizing the current federal environmental assessment of the project. His comments aim to ensure that the full climate-change impacts of the project are considered before the project can be approved.
 
"Climate change is the single greatest environmental threat of our time and one that poses a real and present danger to New Yorkers," Attorney General Schneiderman said.  "It is indisputable that Keystone XL and related tar sand oil transportation projects will result in the emission of tremendous amounts of climate change pollution.  It is inexcusable then that the federal government's assessment of the project would fail to account fully for this pollution and its impact on climate change. Without a full assessment of the climate change impacts of this and associated pipelines, the feds cannot possibility judge whether Keystone XL is in the public interest.  New Yorkers have experienced first-hand the kind of economic, safety and health devastation that will only worsen with unabated climate change -- we deserve better." 
 
The proposed pipeline would transport heavy crude oil extracted from tar sands located in Alberta, Canada, approximately 875 miles across the United States to Nebraska. (The oil would then be sent, via other pipelines, to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and sale). The project requires federal approvals and permits.  Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), federal decision-makers must consider the environmental impacts of the project in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before deciding whether to grant these approvals and permits.  The project EIS was prepared by the U.S. State Department.
 
The Attorney General's comments focus on a major flaw of the draft EIS: A failure to recognize and fully address the amount of climate change pollution that will be emitted if tar sands oil is moved to market via present and future pipelines, including the proposed Keystone project. On a lifecycle basis, tar sands crude oil produces approximately 17% more climate change pollution than other forms of crude.
 
NEPA requires that an EIS examine the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of a proposed project.  Since many impacts do not occur in isolation, the Act uses "cumulative impacts" to account for how an individual project's impacts combine with and add to the impacts of "other past, present or reasonably foreseeable future actions."  In submitted comments, Attorney General Schneiderman argues that the State Department's draft supplemental EIS has failed to address the reality that climate change pollution emitted by the Keystone XL project will add to what is emitted by other pipelines or means of transporting tar sands oil into the U.S. In fact, the Attorney General points out that the State Department has ignored cumulative impacts in assessing applications for two other major transnational crude oil pipeline projects. For this reason, Attorney General Schneiderman argues that the EIS -- as currently drafted -- is contrary to NEPA and needs redrafting and additional public comment before it can be used as a basis of determining whether the project is in the public interest.   
 
Attorney General Schneiderman estimates that if the cumulative impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline and other tar sands oil transport means were accounted for, they would collectively emit 605 to 3,740 million metric tons of additional climate change pollution to the atmosphere over the 50-year lifetime of the project.  These emissions are two to 14 times New York’s 2008 total climate change pollution emissions of 254 million metric tons, and approach the United States’ total 2011 gas emissions of 6,702 million metric tons. 
 
In his comments, the Attorney General emphasizes that the consequences of these tremendous additional emissions could be catastrophic for New York.  For two years in a row, New York faced extreme storms when Tropical Storm Irene hit New York in August 2011 and Superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012.  The intense rains from Irene devastated the Catskills and Adirondacks regions, and Sandy destroyed coastal areas in the State.  Storm surges with associated flooding were experienced in coastal areas of New York City and Long Island.  Highly populated coastal areas were evacuated and thousands of people were displaced.  Approximately 300,000 housing units were destroyed or damaged, two million New York homes and businesses were left without power, numerous roads and subways were flooded, and utility services were disrupted.  Sixtydeaths in New York State have been attributed to Sandy.  New York State and local municipalities suffered significant monetary damages as a result of the storm.

Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has established himself as a leader, both in New York and nationally, in the fight against climate change. For example, the Attorney General:

  • Is leading a coalition of states pressing EPA to honor its legal commitment to regulate emissions of climate change pollution from their largest source: fossil fuel-powered electric generating plants. Last week, the Attorney General's coalition notified EPA of their intention to sue theagency over missing the legal deadline for adopting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel power plants.
  • As leader of a coalition of seven states, has notified the EPA of his intent to sue the agency for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry, including those resulting from "hydrofracking." The EPA has determined that methane is a powerful climate change pollutant emitted by the industry in large quantities. Because of this, and the availability of affordable methods for controlling the industry’s methane emissions, our coalition has charged that EPA violated the Clean Air Act when it largely ignored methane in recent updates to air pollution emission standards for the industry.
  • Has successfully defended New York State’s participation in the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” (RGGI) -- a multi-state effort to reduce emissions of climate change pollution -- against a lawsuit backed by the out-of-state organization Americans for Prosperity.
  • Has joined California and a number of environmental organizations by intervening in federal court to defend a national program to reduce climate change pollution and improve fuel economy for passenger cars and light duty trucks. This follows on the heels of a successful defense of EPA’s first-ever greenhouse gas regulations. In a landmark decision handed down in June 2012 by a federal Appeals Court, Schneiderman argued on behalf of a coalition of states for the court to uphold these regulations.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew G. Frank and Chief Environmental Scientists Alan J. Belensz and Jodi Feld of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau. They are working under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

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