U.S. Battle Brews over Canada Oil Pipeline


"EPA concerned about increased emissions, setbacks for electric cars."

A proposed oil pipeline could lock in Canada's place as the top crude exporter to the United States for 50 years. The State Department is weighing whether the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline would be necessary to bolster U.S. energy security. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is concerned the pipeline may increase emissions and discourage the development of electric vehicles. Here are some possible paths the plan could take:

State Finalizes Review, EPA Satisfied

State could finalize an environmental review of the project without taking public comment, but that could push the EPA to ask that the final decision be made by the White House.

Or State could revise the environmental statement and open it to public comment before finalizing it, which could open up the planned pipeline to changes, such as diverting the pipeline route away from environmentally sensitive areas. That could make the project more palatable to the EPA.

White House's Council on Environmental Quality Decides

Regulators could ask that the final decision be referred to the White House's Council on Environmental Quality. Presumably, State and the EPA would want to work out their differences before it gets to this stage.

State Greenlights, EPA Disagrees

After the environmental impact process, the State Department will work on a "national interest determination" to weigh the importance of the line on U.S. energy security. The process would be open to comment by agencies such as the EPA and the Department of Energy.

Obama Decides

If the EPA or another agency is not happy with the State Department's decision in the national interest determination, they could ask Obama to decide. The president has pledged the United States would cut emissions and dependence on foreign oil, but an opportunity to link energy systems with close ally Canada could be hard to resist.

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