What’s in the State Department’s environmental report on the Keystone XL oil pipeline

A report issued by the State Department Friday raised no major environmental objections to the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. The 1,179-mile pipeline would travel through Montana and South Dakota to a hub in Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries in Texas.

Some details about what’s in the 11-volume report, the fifth environmental review released on the project since 2010:

__ Tar sands in Alberta, Canada, are likely to be developed regardless of U.S. action on the pipeline.

__ Oil derived from the tar sands generates about 17 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming than traditional crude. But other methods of transporting the oil — including rail, trucks and barges — would be worse for climate change.

__ An alternative that relies on shipping the oil by rail through the central U.S. to Gulf Coast refineries would generate 28 per cent more greenhouse gases than a pipeline.

__ The project would support about 3,900 construction jobs in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas and support up to 42,000 jobs in direct, indirect and induced jobs in the region.

— The pipeline would create about 50 jobs once it is operational.

__ The project would contribute approximately $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy during construction.

__The pipeline would probably have an adverse effect on the American burying beetle, an endangered species found in South Dakota and Nebraska. Deaths or harm to individual beetles would be offset by a monitoring program and a performance bond from pipeline operator TransCanada that requires land disturbed by the project to be restored. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded last year that the pipeline is not likely to jeopardize the beetle’s continued existence.

— More than 99 per cent of about 1.5 million comments received on the project were form letters submitted by advocacy groups, for and against the pipeline.

The Environmental Protection Agency and other departments will have 90 days to comment before the State Department makes a recommendation to President Barack Obama on whether the project is in the national interest. A final decision by the government is not expected before summer.