Keystone Pipelines. Photo: flickr/shannonpatrick17
Keystone Pipelines. Photo: flickr/shannonpatrick17

If you have been watching or reading the news lately, chances are you have probably heard about the Keystone or Keystone XL pipeline.  The pipeline has been receiving a great deal of attention and debate – good and bad (depending on who is communicating the message).  With this in-depth series, we’d like to present you with as much information as possible so that you can come to you own conclusion about the project.  One thing is certain – the project has human, environmental and political implications.  So what exactly is the Keystone XL Pipeline?

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed 875-mile pipeline project that would extend from Morgan, Montana, to Steele City, Nebraska. The pipeline would allow delivery of up to 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) in Canada and the Bakken Shale Formation in the United States to Steele City, Nebraska, for onward delivery to refineries in the Texas Gulf Coast area. Since 2008, TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP (Keystone) has been seeking a Presidential Permit that, if granted, would authorize the proposed pipeline to cross the United States-Canadian border at Morgan, Montana.

The proposed route differs from the route analyzed in the 2011 Final Environmental Impact Statement (2011 Final EIS) in that it would avoid the environmentally sensitive Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ)-identified Sand Hills Region and no longer includes a southern segment from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast area.  The pipeline, owned by Canadian company TransCanada, will be carrying tar sand oil (more about this fuel source later).

As of January 2014, President Obama and the U.S. State Department have not yet approved the project.  However, on January 31, 2014, the State Department released its final environmental study, likely paving the way for approval of the project.  The study states that upon extensive research, the project would not ‘worsen’ climate change as a result of increased oil production in Western Canada.

Whether the pipeline is approved, there is no doubt that as stated in the New York Times, “While it remains unclear whether President Obama will approve the project, both sides agree that the fight has changed American environmental politics.”


Check back soon for part 2 – State Department Final supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Study

By Chase Ezell

Chase has served in various public relations, communications and sustainability roles. He is a former managing editor for