Comments are due December 4 on the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality’s Draft Evaluation Report for the Keystone XL reroute around Nebraska’s Sandhills. A simple online form can be found here.
I have found the report lacking in supporting data. The report frequently references the Department of State’s FEIS and Transcanada, neither of which provide sufficient data to make a proper evaluation of the project.
November 30, 2012
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
1200 “N” Street, Suite 400
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
RE: Comments for October 2012 Draft Evaluation Report for the proposed Keystone XL project
After careful review, I have found the NDEQ’s October 2012 Draft Evaluation Report for the proposed Keystone XL project (Report) lacking in key data and detail that preclude a proper evaluation of the Keystone XL’s environmental impacts. Of greatest concern are the insufficiency of both the GIS routing data and spill mitigation details in the report.
Inadequate Data and Over-Reliance on DOS FEIS
The NDEQ’s report relies too heavily on the Department of State’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in making its analysis and supporting its assertions. Conspicuously missing from the FEIS are the location data for the pipeline’s key landmarks, including milepost (MP) markers and waterbody crossings. Despite their absence, the MP markers are repeatedly referenced throughout both the project and DOS documents and are critical for all discussions of the pipeline route, potential environmental impacts, and surrounding points of interest. The GIS data released by the NDEQ is inadequate, as well, for the following reasons:
- Milepost Markers: The NDEQ report furnishes MP markers for even miles only, whereas the FEIS requires accuracy to the nearest tenth of a mile.
- Waterbody Crossings: The NDEQ acknowledges that the Nebraska Keystone route has 163 waterbody crossings, but the NDEQ’s digital map file only contains the five largest.
- Gas & Water Wells: The gas and water well data contained in the FEIS has not been updated to reflect the revised Nebraska route.
While all parties, including PHMSA, FERC, and all state agencies, acknowledge that the pipeline’s GIS data is public information, neither the DOS nor TransCanada will release this information. The hardcopy maps in the FEIS do not contain longitude and latitude information. TransCanada’s manager of Stakeholder Relations, Terry Cunha, has gone so far as to claim that the Keystone XL route location data is a matter of national security. If this is true, this danger has not been conveyed to the public nor acknowledged in the subject Report. The Report and the FEIS on which it relies cannot be considered suitable for public review until a complete open-source digital dataset has been made readily available at no cost.
Inadequate Spill Mitigation
Neither the FEIS nor the NDEQ’s report sufficiently addresses TransCanada’s preparation for spill prevention and mitigation. It is alarming that TransCanada has yet to develop an Emergency Response Plan for the Keystone XL. A non-profit group, Plains Justice, brought these deficiencies to public attention over two years ago in their report, The Northern Great Plains at Risk: Oil Spill Planning Deficiencies in Keystone Pipeline System (http://tinyurl.com/cwzffo9). Given the experience of a recent pipeline spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where cleanup costs are $1 billion and climbing, TransCanada’s $200 million third party liability insurance is grossly inadequate. Permitting should also be subject to EPA review. It would be negligent to repeat the Gulf Coast approval process, whereby USACE gave sweeping project-wide construction approval to TransCanada through a Nationwide Permit 12 and withheld waterbody crossing data until after granting their approval.
It is disturbing that TransCanada has not been required to fully disclose details of the pipeline route to the public or to document adequate emergency spill response measures. The public review process requires more accurate and complete information than have been provided to date by TransCanada, the DOS, and the NDEQ.