KEYSTONE XL:

DOE stayed silent on State's latest pipeline review

The Department of Energy didn't join U.S. EPA and the Interior Department in writing public comments on the review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to a DOE spokeswoman.

DOE's decision not to weigh in on KXL during the spring comment period emerged yesterday as EPA's and Interior's responses continue to give green activists fodder to hammer the State Department's review of the oil sands crude link.

While EPA took issue with State's projections of the pipeline's carbon emissions and threat to waterways in the event of a spill, Interior challenged its fellow agency to look at "actual" rather than possible mitigation measures as well as consider "the entire footprint of the project" when assessing its impact on at-risk wildlife.

In its previous comments on a 2010 draft environmental review of the project, DOE challenged a prominent argument made by pipeline backers: that rejecting the project would leave Canada more inclined to ship its increased volumes of heavy oil sands crude to China and other Asian markets via a pipeline to the west coast of British Columbia.

"With different investors and stakeholders supporting each project, it seems that issuance of a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline will not foreclose an option others may be pursuing to establish a pipeline to the west coast," DOE's Office of Policy and International Affairs wrote in July 2010. "That is, it appears that these two pipelines are not mutually exclusive."

Another DOE comment on an earlier KXL review, a 2011 memo signed by Deputy Assistant Secretary Carmine Difiglio, provided ammunition to pipeline backers in the oil industry by contending that the proposed project's route for Canadian oil sands crude to reach the Gulf Coast would not drive up gas prices in the Midwest -- currently the leading U.S. regional destination for that heavy fuel.

DOE is one of eight federal agencies listed as able to consult with the State Department in the 2004 executive order that governs the evaluation of cross-border energy infrastructure such as KXL, along with EPA, Interior and others that have not seen public comments made available on the 1,179-mile pipeline, such as the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.

A DOE spokeswoman did not respond by press time to a request for comment on the decision not to submit a public response on State's draft KXL review.