The Los Angeles Times reported today that U.S. State Department is going to require additional environmental studies before granting a permit for the 1,660-mile Keystone XL pipeline, proposed to carry oil from the tar sands of northern Canada through the U.S. heartland and on to south Texas.
In an announcement Tuesday, department officials said they would open a new round of public comments on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, to be released in mid-April, with a decision on whether to grant a permit for the controversial pipeline now expected by the end of the year.
Pipeline opponents have long called for new environmental reviews, looking especially at the ability of a standard oil pipeline to safely carry the diluted bitumen found in the tar sands of northern Alberta, according to the publication.
A study last month by three of the nation's biggest environmental organizations and the Pipeline Safety Trust warned of a higher risk of corrosion-related spills linked to higher levels of abrasives, temperature and acidity in tar sands oil -- claims that TransCanada, the pipeline builder, has rebutted.
Ranchers in Nebraska and surrounding states are also calling on the State Department to look at the possibility of a new pipeline route that would avoid a sandy, vulnerable area above the Ogallala Aquifer, a key source of farmland irrigation and drinking water that underlies eight states in the Great Plains.