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Remarks On The Release Of The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement For The Proposed Keystone Pipelin



Published on 01 February 2014



by Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

(WireNews)

Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the call. I’m Doug Frantz and I’ll be moderating. The speaker will be Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, and Kerri-Ann is spelled K-e-r-r-i, hyphen, A-n-n. She is the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

This call will be on the record. Because of the heavy number of callers, not everyone’s going to get a chance to ask a question. So when it’s your turn please make your question succinct, and when I call on you for your question please give us your name and the name of your news organization. Thank you again for joining, and now, I’ll turn this over to Dr. Jones, who will make a brief opening statement, and then she will take your questions.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for being on the call. I want to make a few opening comments, as Doug has said. We’re doing this call, as you know, because we have now released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement related to the permit application for the Keystone pipeline. It is on the State Department website. Hard copies have been mailed out. And we anticipate that the official Notice of Availability will be posted on EPA’s federal register site in approximately seven days.

This document is only one factor that will be coming into the review process for this permit. This is one of the elements that we will be looking at as we move into the national interest determination. The final supplemental document that we’ve posted is a technical assessment. It’s consistent with MEPA. It is not a decision document. And it does not make any recommendations about approving or denying the application.

As you know, we released a draft of this document in March of 2013, and we had an extensive comment period where we received over 1.5 million comments from the public. We also held a public meeting during that period, and the final supplemental that we are releasing today has benefited greatly from this public input.

This document looks at environmental considerations broadly. It looks at considerations related to water, land, the cultural resources. It looks at wildlife and endangered species questions. It also looks at alternative routes.

I’d like to talk a little bit about what’s in the document and some of the areas we did some additional work on since the draft. And as you probably know, based on public comments, we had some concerns raised where we wanted to put some extra work. One of those was related to the issue of the potential oil releases or spills. Pipeline safety has always been a priority, and it was a subject of many of the comments we received. The final supplemental document includes additional analysis and conditions to address pipeline safety concerns, and we had some originally from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency in the draft. They have recommended additional ones in this new final, and we have others that have been developed based on some risk analysis studies and interagency discussions.

These conditions are meant to prevent and to reduce potential spills, as well to mitigate problems, and so in this document, one of the things we’ve done differently is we have taken all of the suggested potential mitigation actions related to pipeline safety and other issues, and put them all together in a separate annex, an appendix. And that would be Appendix Z.

The second topic where we received a significant amount of public attention has been the question of climate change, and we have worked that issue quite significantly in this document with a lot of additional work. The first part of that question that has come up many times is looking at how does the oil from the oil sands compare to other oil in terms of greenhouse gas intensity. And what the report finds is that – and what has – from the draft as well is that the oil produced from the oil sands is more carbon-intensive than the average oil used in the U.S. by about 17 percent, and it is slightly more intensive than the heavy crude oil it would be replacing, ranging from 2 to 10 percent. These numbers are – vary because what is being compared in the various different methodologies that are used in getting these numbers.

The second question relates a lot to how does one pipeline affect the development of the oil sands area. And let me just say that the assumptions about oil markets, regulatory and legal framework, are uncertain and changeable. The final supplemental presents considerable analysis, but it does not answer the broader question about how a decision on the proposed project would fit into the broader national and international efforts to address climate change or other questions of foreign policy or energy security. These are the perspectives that we’re going to be addressing in the next phase, in the national interest determination.

But what the final supplemental does do is it looks at the anticipated outlook for oil prices, and also it looks at what’s anticipated in terms of how much it costs to – for a producer to be working in the oil sands to get that oil out. It also looks at what the cost of transportation might be, other forms of transportation. And it notes that the approval or denial of any given single project is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction of the oil sands or the refining of heavy crude on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The final supplemental also does identify a set of assumptions, including constrained pipeline capacity and low oil prices, where the development of the oil sands could be affected by increases in transportation cost. So basically, this document has a tremendous amount of analysis of different scenarios and assumptions, and I think it presents a lot of important information. But it has to be looked at as only part of what we need to look at to move forward to make this important decision because, as I started with, there’s so many uncertainties here and there are so many other considerations.

Let me just briefly comment about next steps. With the release of the final supplemental, we now turn to look at these broader issues related to the national interest determination, and in that determination, we will be following the procedures spelled out in the Executive Order 13337. Today, we’re going to be beginning the process of consulting with the agencies identified in that executive order to get their views about the national interest of this – whether this project will serve in the national interest. And we’re going to ask them to get their comments to us in a timely fashion, but they have up to 90 days to do that.

We’re also going to begin a public comment period that will start on February 5th and that will last for 30 days.

So with that, let me stop and take your questions. And again, thanks for being on the call.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, once again, if you’d like to queue up, press * then 1 on your phone keypad. You’ll hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in queue. And if you’d like to, you may remove yourself from the queue by pressing the pound key.

One moment, please, for our first question.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Okay. The first question will come from Andrea Mitchell with NBC News, please.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you very much. A couple of points here, and one about the way this report was done, because there were a lot of questions about the original – I shouldn’t say original – about the March report. And I know you had many more comments and a lot more work done on it, but is the same – are the same entities working on this final report that were accused of a conflict of interest because of connections to some of the very oil companies with which they were involved?

And what is your timetable for Secretary Kerry’s analysis of this? How quickly do you think he will get to it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Thanks for your question. We have been working with a third-party contractor, and the third-party contractor was selected using our very rigorous conflict of interest screening guidelines, and we feel confident that there are no issues related to this contractor. So we’re very confident that we have followed the procedures that we have developed to avoid conflict of interest or any connection between the contractor and the applicant.

So it is the same contractor that has been working on this who was selected through that process.

QUESTION: But isn’t there – was there an Inspector General review of that process?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: There was an early Inspector General review – not investigation, but a review early on before we ever started this application. Based on that review, we established interim guidelines which we have been following, which are very rigorous and do look through all kinds of connections and potential – and actual conflict or potential conflict. If there’s perceived conflict, we work to mitigate that. And we’re confident that we have been following those guidelines.

There is – I think what you’re referring to – there is an ongoing limited compliance review that the IG is carrying out to see if we’re following those guidelines. And you’d have to go to the IG to ask when that report would be coming out.

Now to your second question about the timetable, Secretary Kerry has not been briefed on the contents of this report, so he will just be getting into this. And he does not have a timeline. He will take the timeline he needs to deliberate and to approach the various dimensions of this project. He will be consulting with those eight agencies that are mentioned in the executive order. The only specific timeline that’s given in the executive order is that the consulting agencies have up to 90 days to get their views in.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Thank you, Andrea. Next question will come from Roberta Rampton with Reuters.

OPERATOR: And your line is open.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Next question will come from Roberta Rampton with Reuters, please.

QUESTION: Hi. Sorry about that. There’s been a lot of attention lately on oil being shipped by rail, big spills, explosions, and safety and environmental issues associated with oil by rail. I’m wondering whether your extensive analysis looked at that issue, the environmental issue specifically associated with shipping increased volumes of oil by rail, and what the findings were – if so, what the findings were.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Thank you for that question. In our analysis of alternatives, there’s a no-action alternative where we look at what would happen if the pipeline was not built, and certainly rail is looked at in that section. And in looking at rail, the questions you raised are considered. The environmental impacts, as well as the safety considerations, are analyzed. In addition, the frequency of spills that happen with rails are compared with frequency of spills that happen with pipeline. The volumes are compared. And this information is presented in this final supplemental.

QUESTION: And I’m sorry, what is the bottom line of that information? What does – what was your findings?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Well, I would refer you to the document, because it depends on a number of things. In looking at the rail, there are a lot of different ways to deal with how you might move such oil by rail. You could move it all by rail or you could move it by rail and barge. And so it depends what distance you’re traveling. And so I would just refer you to the document.

The – what the document does is lay out all of the different variables. It doesn’t really step forward and say how – which way to go. It’s presented as information for the decision-maker in the next step.

QUESTION: Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Okay. Next question is from Elise Labott with CNN.

QUESTION: Thanks so much for doing this call. A lot of people are now kind of analyzing the report and saying that basically, this report comes down on the side of “This would have minimal environmental impact.” Would you agree with that assessment from reading – your reading of the report?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Well, I believe this report does a – takes a comprehensive look at all of the potential environmental impacts, and then it also looks at all of the possible mitigation actions that could be taken. I think that you would have to think about taking all of those mitigation actions. You would also have to sort of look more broadly at what I had stated before about the whole issue of greenhouse gas intensity. So I don’t think that I would come down and make that statement. I think that you have to look at this document as part of a bigger picture where having all of this information and recognizing all of the different scenarios, you then have to weigh that against the other factors related to energy security and foreign policy and economic considerations.

QUESTION: But given that climate change and the environment is clearly one of Secretary Kerry’s priorities since taking office, would you say that he – obviously while taking into account all those other factors that you mentioned – would be reading it with an eye towards specifically and most importantly environmental concerns?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: As I mentioned, the Secretary has not been briefed on this or read this. And I can’t speculate for how he would read it. I know that he is anxious to delve into it and he’s going to look at it from all different perspectives. And I know he’s going to deliberate on it, but I can’t speculate. He has to sort of see this in the context of everything else. So I think that’s premature and I can’t speak for him on that issue.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Do – can you remind the callers how to queue up for questions, please?

OPERATOR: Certainly. Simply press * and then 1 on your phone keypad, ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t already done so.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Okay. Next, we’ll go to Jim Efstathiou from Bloomberg News.

QUESTION: Oh, hi. Thanks for having the call. You’ve said that – when referring to the greenhouse gas question, that the carbon intensity of – that this report finds that the oil sands crude are about 17 percent more carbon intensive than the reference crudes --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Right.

QUESTION: -- than the average crudes used in the United – and I think, as I recall, that was the same number that was in the March report. So that doesn’t seem to have moved. And in the March report, I think there was a kind of an assessment that the pipe – that the project would not – and I’m not sure if was significantly or substantially – impact greenhouse gases. So just by association, can we make the same – did the report say the same thing now, since it’s using the same – since it seems to come to the same number?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: The report now has done a lot more work in the area of market analysis in terms of where this particular project would fit in the overall global market. And I think what we have found, as I said, is that when you do the market analysis, which we have done with a lot of different economic models – and the economic models that we have looked at are – have different variables. And what was varied was the supply and demand scenario as well as what happens to the different pipelines that are proposed, how constraining is pipeline capacity. And so what this document does is give us a lot more background onto whether or not, if you can – you need to look at what conditions would be in play, and then what that would mean in terms of the different scenarios.

So as I said, if you look at an anticipated outlook for certain variables like oil prices, which are obvious, and then how much it costs for someone to produce oil from the oil sands, and then how much transportation costs will be, it looks like, and the report notes, that the approval or denial of any single project is unlikely, as I mentioned, to significantly affect development of the oil sands.

However, in all of the analysis we did, we also looked at some other assumptions which pushed it out a little further in terms of constrained pipeline capacity and low oil prices. And when you look at that, and you look at, then, transportation costs potentially increasing, the development of the oil sands could be affected.

And so what we have done is expanded and deepened the analysis to sort of look at that question that you’re getting at regarding the greenhouse gas intensity and the overall impact of one particular project.

But let me just reiterate that the assumptions about oil markets and regulatory and legal frameworks are uncertain and changeable, so we do have to take this work in the supplemental and look at it against the broader questions about where this project fits in our national and international efforts to address climate change, and foreign policy and energy security. So this document gives us much more information and deeper analysis, but it does have to be looked at in the broader context.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Thanks very much. We’ll move to our neighbors to the north and take the next question from Luiza Savage of Maclean’s magazine.

QUESTION: Great. Thank you so much. Can you comment at all on whether you gave any consideration or would give any consideration to regulations on greenhouse gases in Canada? We understand there was a letter sent by the Government of Canada earlier this summer. The EPA had asked the two countries to work together on controlling emissions from the oil sands. Is anything happening there? Is there anything you can tell us?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: I know nothing about the letter you’ve referred to. I’ve heard a lot about it, but I know nothing about that letter. We do, in the document, talk a little bit about what is going on in Canada, but that’s just part of the information that the document provides. This is the analysis of one particular pipeline permit application. It’s a technical document, and we’re sort of not into the discussions that you are referring to.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Okay. Next up is Margaret Brennan from CBS News.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Sure.

QUESTION: This report seems to look at so many different variables here. Is there a cumulative net impact sort of bottom line on the environment here? And when you make the point about this not significantly affecting the rate of extraction of oil in the oil sands or refining of heavy crude, is that another way of saying that approval would not increase carbon emissions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: This document does have a section that talks about cumulative impacts looking at all of the different pieces. But what we have done in this document, as I mentioned, is we have pulled out all of the suggested mitigation actions that would be needed to take steps to mitigate against any of the potential damage to the environment or the harm to the environment. So we have developed it a little differently in going area by area in terms of looking at pipeline safety, in terms of looking at endangered and threatened species. So that’s the approach we have taken in this final supplemental.

Your other question about the statement that I made about given certain – the certain – anticipated outlook, we’re not talking – this is not a document that deals with approving or denying. This is a technical document that lays out a lot of different scenarios that will inform the decision maker who will be looking broadly at a number of different issues. And so what we have done in this document is responded to a lot of public comments and concerns about greenhouse gas intensity, and then the overall look at the global oil market and the market analysis related to the flow of this – the transport of this oil. We have looked at other means of transportation, including rail, and we’ve done a lot of economic modeling. But this is the technical information that will be fed into the broader discussion where there will be a lot of other considerations put on the table.

QUESTION: Right. But would the project as proposed by Keystone now at this point – is there a net impact here? You’ve looked at all these other scenarios and hypotheticals; but as proposed now, is there a net impact that’s clear for you now? It’s not clear as a view whether or not there’s a bottom line on the plan as it exists now as to whether it increases carbon emissions. Perhaps I’m not reading it right, but if you’d clarify it for me, that would be helpful.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: I think you’re getting at one of the difficult questions. The question is that there is heavy crude coming into the U.S. This would be replacing some of that. The question is whether or not the building of one pipeline significantly would affect the overall development of the oil sands. But the specific answer that you are looking for, that is not in this document. What we have is a number of different approaches, scenarios, dealing with all the variables. But it’s a modeling exercise, and so you really have to sort of put all those pieces together. And then you have to look at these pieces relative to our broader national and international efforts related to how are we going to address climate change.

MODERATOR: Okay. Next up is Ed Crooks from The Financial Times.

QUESTION: Thanks for taking the question. I have three, but I think they’re all linked, so really, it should be quickish.

Just your list of mitigation measures, are there any of those concerned with climate change and climate impact? And then linked to that, I think there’s a table which seems, as far as I can tell, to show that not approving Keystone XL would lead to higher emissions, like for instance if the oil went to the Gulf of Mexico by rail, that would lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions than if they came by pipeline. Is that right?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Those are the comparisons we have put out there, but it really – it depends on what scenario you’re looking at. And then your point about are there steps for mitigating increased greenhouse gases, yes, in terms of the construction of the overall pipeline, there are steps that could be taken to mitigate and related to pumping stations and other efforts during the construction phase.

QUESTION: Thank you. And then finally, just in terms of, as you say, the kind of – there’s a decision yet to be taken where other considerations come in. To understand you rightly, is climate policy one of those considerations, as you say, how the pipeline fits into the broader kind of national and international climate policy, it’s still something that will be considered further?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Absolutely. Given the priority that climate is for President Obama and Secretary Kerry and the U.S. in general, that’s certainly a key consideration.

QUESTION: Fantastic. Thanks very much.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Ed. Now we’ll to Peter Nicholas from The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you again for doing this. I wonder if this would just be a fair way to describe the gist of your report, that if it would – is it not likely to be – ultimately have much impact on global climate change, because if the pipeline is built or it’s not built, the oil is going to be extracted one way or another, it’s going to be transported one way or another. And so, given all of that, that’s sort of what you’re driving at in your – in the report’s conclusion. Is that fair, that it would be extracted and transported by other means that would have a comparable impact on the environment to the pipeline?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: I think that’s a bit of an oversimplification, because I think what you are concluding is that one – you’re looking at one particular case and one particular set of conditions. What we have tried to do is spell out a number of different things that may be happening. The issue is that there have been a – there are a collection of assumptions which include a constrained pipeline capacity and low prices, as I said, where if the cost of transportation went up, the development of the oil sands could be affected. So the certainty that you’re trying to, I think, present isn’t there, because we have a number of different scenarios, models, and then assumptions. And I know everyone wants certainty here, but this is about looking at technical data and seeing how you model it, and then trying to understand what might actually happen. That then has to be put against, as I said, the broader issues and concerns that we have regarding climate change, foreign policy, and energy security.

MODERATOR: Okay. Next up is Rosalind Jordan from Al Jazeera English.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing the call. Given that there are going to be two concurrent comment periods, one for the various government agencies to weigh in and one for the general public to weigh in, what is the disparity in giving the agencies up to 90 days to weigh in with their considerations and only 30 days for the general public? Because I think, as we have now seen in the past year, there is considerable support and there is considerable opposition, why do people on both sides of the issue only get 30 days? Is there a legal reason for that? Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Sure. Thank you for that question. The national interest determination is defined by the executive order, and there’s no requirement at this period in the process for any public comment whatsoever. And so we felt, given, as you point out, the tremendous interest in this, that we did need additional public comment. We feel that 30 days has been appropriate amount of time, because we have had a 45-day comment period on the draft, and we also had a public meeting. We also had comments during the scoping session. So we felt that was an adequate time to really have people come in and talk to us and tell us about their comments on the national interest.

The agency period that you refer to is spelled out in the executive order, up to 90 days. And that’s the – we’re following those guidelines.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MODERATOR: Okay. Next up is Matt Daly from Associated Press.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for having this call. I guess I wanted to talk more specifically about the climate effects of this project and what you think they would be, because I think there’s a – on page 16 of the summary, they talk about that under construction there would be – would not contribute anything greater than current conditions, but then I’m trying to get some statistics on the operation of the pipeline, too, and particularly comparing it to rail or barging.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Right. I’m going to – for the details of that, I’d have to refer you to the document. There is in the – it’s in the section on alternatives, where the route proposed by the applicant, other actual routes, as well as no action alternatives, are looked at in terms of the overall transport and usage of the oil are looked at and compared, but I can’t – I don’t have that in front of me, but that is in the document, in the alternatives section.

MODERATOR: Okay. Next up is Juliet Eilperin from The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Hi. Couple questions. When you talk about the fact that this pipeline – the document you have doesn’t necessarily answer the question of the broader national and international efforts to address climate change, is there a way you can elaborate a bit?

And I’m looking at that section that you’re talking about. And while it does give some statistics about which – what would be needed in terms of capacity, it doesn’t look like it gives specific percentages. I think what Matt’s trying to get at is, do you actually have any analysis that says it would be X percent more or less carbon intensive to do these different alternatives, whether it’s just rail or rail and barge?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: I’m trying to think about exactly what your question is trying to get at. We – the issue about the different scenarios that we’ve looked at is that we sort of can’t nail down which one exactly is going to happen, because we’re looking into the future in terms of the global markets and how things are developed.

I think that the question that you sort of started out with about the broader national and international efforts to address climate change, that’s sort of looking at how we can take all of this information and plug it into the national interest determination discussion, which looks more broadly at a lot of our other – overall national and international objectives and our energy security goals.

So I think that we don’t have a section that says there’s this percentage or that percentage. We do have comparisons of the different alternative routes. We do have comparisons in the no-action alternative if you are looking at rail. And we have, I believe, three different ways we look at rail in terms of how it’s actually transported, including one with rail, including barge.

But this is – as I said, this – I keep going back. This is a technical document that’s meant to really look at an area that is defined by a global market and do some modeling and to see where this fits in with the best available data we can get.

QUESTION: Right. But just forgive me, but in – I see that scenario and it talks about what is done, but you don’t have an analysis of what the carbon impact would be of these alternatives, correct?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: We do have a chart, I believe. I don’t really --

QUESTION: Okay.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: I don’t have it in front of me. We do have charts of what the GHGs emissions are for the various alternatives. And we also have – when it comes to spill volumes, we have that comparison as well because that’s sort of what we – how we approached it in the alternatives section.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Okay, next up Jessica Stone from CCTV.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. I think you’re referring to – to pick up on the previous question – to Table ES6, which has a comparison of – it looks like it’s a comparison of the proposed route, the Steele City segment, the corridor, and then three different rail no-action scenarios. And it appears, if you could go off memory, that there’s actually a greater greenhouse gas impact without a pipeline alternative. Can you explain why that might be the case?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Well, I think what you’re referring to – I have it in front of me now. What you’re referring to --

QUESTION: Yeah, page 34?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: What you’re referring to is the fact that for each of the alternatives we do look at sort of a calculation of greenhouse gasses. And with rail there is the – in – there is the additional fuel for the train. There is the other – other greenhouse gas processes that come into play. And so yes, there is a comparison there which shows that rail can be more greenhouse gas intensive than the – than a pipeline. But it really refers in more detail you have to look at this in the alternatives section because beyond the greenhouse gas issue there are still issues where the comparison is very different in that there are more frequent spills from rail but the volume is much smaller, and spills from pipelines are infrequent but much larger. There is also an issue related to rail that comes into play, which is safety and the sort of increased frequency of injury related to rail. So that piece that you’re referring to is in the Executive Summary, but there’s a much broader discussion of the comparison of these different alternatives in the alternatives section in the full document.

QUESTION: Do you have a chapter number off the top of your head on that, or is that just called the alternative sections and table of contents?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: We’re looking.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Yeah, all I have is – it’s in Volume 4, Section 5.0. Does that help you?

QUESTION: Volume 4. I’m hoping it helps all of us because I think that’s what we’re all looking for. 4.5 – oh.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: While you’re looking, we’ll move on to the next questioner.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Thank you. Howard LaFranchi from Christian Science Monitor.

QUESTION: Yes, thanks. My question has to do with the timeline again, and you mentioned that the eight agencies have the – this 90 days, and that that will be the process for determining the – for the national interest determination. I’m wondering if subsequent to that, is there anything else in the – either the executive order or in this process that sets out after that 90-day period what – when some decision might be made, just getting some idea of what may be ahead in terms of decision making?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: In the executive order, the only timeline that is culled out is that comment period up to 90 days. And Secretary Kerry is just really beginning his involvement in this process now because he has not been briefed on this. He hasn’t been involved in the development of this document. And so there’s no deadline for the Secretary or his designee to make this determination, and he will take the time he needs to deliberate on it and get the feedback from the other agencies. But there is no time – there is no deadline, there is no specific timeline for his deliberations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Okay, we’re going to have two more questions. The next one is from Tom Cohen of CNN.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you very much. Two quick ones. Last year at Georgetown, President Obama said that one of the key factors in making a final decision on Keystone would be whether there is any increased carbon emissions from it overall or negligible or bad environmental impact. In your opinion, does this report in any way give Obama something that would cause him to reject it?

And secondly, we’re hearing that there was a summary conclusion in the draft report about the – that said that the pipeline would have no significant impact on climate change, and that that was removed from this final report. If that’s true, can you confirm it and tell us why it was removed? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Sure. First of all, just let me clarify something. The decision right now is with the State Department per the executive order, and we’re following the executive order. And we did a tremendous amount of analysis on this question of greenhouse gasses and climate change, and we’re going to continue to work on that in the national interest determination because of the various different models and different options that have come forward in our work.

But at this point, we – I can’t really answer your question about where we are because we have to get into the national interest determination, and Secretary Kerry is just really getting into that process.

And about your other point, I can’t confirm anything like that. We have been working on this from the draft based on input from the public, and we have just been moving forward with it and doing increased analysis based on what the feedback was and where the questions were.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Okay, the last question will come from Zoe Carpenter of The Nation magazine. And for those of you who are not getting your questions answered, please feel free to call the press office at the State Department and they’ll get answers for you. And we will have a transcript to send around as soon as the transcribers can get it rolled out. So last question is from The Nation magazine.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you could explain why State felt it was appropriate to go ahead and release this impact statement while the IG investigation was underway.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Certainly. These are two completely separate processes and we have used our rigorous guidelines in selection of third-party contractors, and we are confident that we have used them appropriately and that we have made sure that there were no conflict of interests at play. Of course, we can always strengthen things and we look forward to the IG’s report, but that’s on a completely separate track from this process. And I would refer you – now, regarding that review that they’re carrying out, I would refer you to the IG’s office for further information.

QUESTION: But doesn’t – I mean, isn’t it related? Because if the IG found that there had been compliance issues, wouldn’t that put this report into question?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: As I said, we feel confident that we have very rigorous procedures that we have followed, and we feel that we have appropriately done what was necessary in the selecting of a third-party contractor, and we have been working closely with the IG and we look forward to their review coming out. Whenever it does, you’ll have to talk to them, but I feel that it’s important for us to move forward in our process, and we have been responsive to public comments and we wanted to get this document out and keep moving.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRANTZ: Okay, thank you all very much for the respectful questions, and good luck with your articles.

 


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Posted 2014-02-01 12:32:00