EPA chief says Keystone pipeline won’t be a climate disaster

The head of the U.S. Environmental Service (EPA), Gina McCarthy, said this week that building the Keystone XL pipeline would not result in a climate disaster, as some opponents of the project suggest.

The Keystone Pipeline System is an oil pipeline system in Canada and the United States, commissioned since 2010. It runs from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas, and also to oil tank farms and oil pipeline distribution centers in Cushing, Oklahoma. Three phases of the project have been completed, while the fourth, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, is still waiting on U.S. approval. 

The Keystone XL proposal faces criticism from environmentalists, indigenous peoples and a minority of the members of the United States Congress. Environmentalists, in particular, believe that the pipeline would exacerbate environmental pollution and therefore harm the climate.

In March 2013 the U.S. State Department released a draft Environmental Impact Statement, which reflected positively on the pipeline project. At the time, the EPA came down on the side of environmentalists, criticizing the State Department's analysis and saying that the pipeline represented a serious threat to the environment due to the potential for spills and other forms of pollution. 

Now it appears that Gina McCarthy may be reversing the EPA's initial stance. 

"No, I don't think that any one issue is a disaster for the climate, nor do I think there is one solution for the climate change challenge that we have," McCarthy said during an interview with POLITICO. She added that the EPA's original comments to the State Department did not lead to any conclusion about the pipeline. 

Environmental consultants can help state and federal governments create strategies for projects such as the Keystone XL to ensure environmental risks are mitigated successfully.