Last updated on 2013.03.06
The John Kerry State Department says of the Keystone XL pipeline pretty much what the TransCanada-lobbied Hillary Clinton State Department said: Go ahead. Build it. Apparently stock portfolios trump professions of climate hawkery.
However, the Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement released at the end of Friday's news cycle doesn't exactly make a thunderous case for building the pipeline. The State Department actually supports much of what I've been saying to debunk the Big Oil propaganda used to sell this project. Consider the official job estimate:
Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, the proposed Project would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1-to 2-year construction period (of which, approximately 3,900 would be directly employed in construction activities) [U.S. State Department, Draft Supplemental EIS, Executive Summary, March 2013, pp. 13–14].
Indirect and induced effects—that's the same fuzzy math that TransCanada uses to say that the pipeline will put dancers, choreographers, and speech therapists to work along the pipeline route in South Dakota during construction. Sure: they'll probably also need some French teachers in their man camps, too, right?
The permanent jobs created by the pipeline are negligible:
Once in place, the labor requirements for pipeline operations are relatively minor. Operation of the proposed Project would generate 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, primarily for routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs. Based on this estimate, routine operation of the proposed Pipeline would have negligible socioeconomic impacts [State DSEIS-ES, March 2013, p. 14].
35 jobs spread across the plains: that's a pretty thin return for the costly risk we're asked to bear by hosting Keystone XL under our ground and over our water supplies.
The report also concludes that approval or denial of Keystone XL is unlikely to have a significant effect on the development of Alberta tar sands oil, the Bakken oil reserves, or the amount of oil refined at the Gulf Coast, the ultimate destination for Keystone XL. All of that oil is going to move one way or another, so there's no need for South Dakota to bear the risk of this pipeline.
But running more of that risk through South Dakota is exactly what State considers. One-upping Nebraska's proposed reroute to avoid the Sandhills, State suggests that TransCanada could turn east when it hits I-90 west of Murdo, then shoot east along the Interstate until just past Mitchell, where it would angle southeast along the railline and Highway 262 through Alexandria to join up with the existing Keystone 1 pipeline right-of-way in southwestern McCook County. Compared to TransCanada's proposed straight hypotenuse route, this route would cross less prime farmland, less compaction-prone soil, and less drought-prone land. It would cross less vital aquifer land but threaten more shallow wells. It would cross more sensitive wetland regions. And it would cross the Missouri River twice.
But here are the numbers that should matter to the bean-counters in Pierre: the I-90 route creates 200 more jobs during pipeline construction, $7 million more in GDP, and $3.9 million more in property tax revenue.
I'd rather not see another giant pipeline through South Dakota. But running more of it along the already disrupted rights-of-way of I-90 and Keystone 1 may better protect the Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer. So for those of you liking the pipeline, you should call Governor Daugaard, tell him to call Secretary Kerry and President Obama, and thump the drum for some I-90 action on Keystone XL.
Related: Pat Powers regurgitates Rep. Kristi Noem's unthinking flogging of Big Oil propaganda in favor of Keystone XL. Rep. Noem ignores the substance of this report and pretends that 35 permanent jobs are a "substantial economic benefit" and that little change in supply at the Gulf equals "energy security."