Interior Department says Keystone XL project will harm wildlife

It joins the EPA in challenging State Department's analysis

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department has warned that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could have long-term, damaging effects on wildlife near its route, contradicting the State Department's March draft environmental assessment, which concluded the project would have only a temporary, indirect impact.

In a 12-page letter sent as part of the public comment on the draft assessment, the Interior Department repeatedly labels as inaccurate its sister agency's conclusions that Keystone XL would have short-lived effects on wildlife and only during the project's construction.

"Given that the project includes not only constructing a pipeline but also related infrastructure, access roads, and power lines and substations, impacts to wildlife are not just related to project construction. Impacts to wildlife from this infrastructure will occur throughout the life of the project (i.e. operation and maintenance phases)," the letter says.

Extending 1,700 miles from Canada's oil sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, Keystone XL needs a presidential permit from the State Department because it crosses a U.S. border. The draft assessment focuses on the 875-mile section from the border in Montana through South Dakota to a pipeline hub in Nebraska.

The letter grimly catalogs many ways Keystone XL could harm wildlife: "species displacement, increased predation rates and predator travel lanes, increased nest parasitism, vehicle collisions with wildlife ... invasive plant species, increased wildfire risk, lower wildlife density, increase in collisions with power lines and electrocutions on power poles ... and increase in poaching."

The Interior Department is the second major federal agency to criticize the State Department's draft environmental impact statement. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency slammed the assessment, saying it failed to account for what could be major greenhouse gas emissions and risks to aquifers.

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