WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency issued a sharply critical assessment of the State Department's recent environmental impact review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a move likely to complicate efforts to win approval for the $7 billion project.
In a letter to top State Department officials overseeing the permitting process for the pipeline, the EPA lays out detailed objections regarding greenhouse gas emissions related to the project, pipeline safety and alternative routes.
Based on its analysis, the EPA said it had "environmental objections" to the State Department's environmental assessment due to "insufficient information."
A State Department spokesman could not be reached for comment. The State Department assessment concluded that Keystone XL, which would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, would have a minimal impact on the environment. But the EPA analysis appears to challenge that conclusion. It is similar to objections the EPA raised about the project in 2011.
The EPA's assessment came during the public comment period for the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the State Department issued last month. The study is supposed to be an exhaustive look at the effect of the proposed pipeline on air, water, endangered species, communities and the economy.
Other federal agencies have the right to comment on the assessment, but the EPA's is the one most anxiously awaited because a negative analysis by the regulator could raise barriers to the project's approval.
President Barack Obama said in late 2011 that he would decide the pipeline's fate, and a final decision is expected by summer.