By: KATIE VALENTINE | August 19th, 2013 | Think Progress
If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline could have serious impacts on wildlife, natural resources and visitors’ experiences in national parks, according to a letter from the Department of the Interior.
The letter was sent to the State Department on April 29 and was recently posted on the department’s website as one of the 1.2 million public comments it’s processing on itsstrongly-contested Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed pipeline.
In the letter, the Interior Department says Keystone XL’s proposed route would cross five trails within the National Trail System as well as lands that may drain into two nationally-managed rivers. The letter also expresses concerns that the Interior Department’s comments from a previous environmental impact statement were not taken into account on the most recent one: the Interior Department said it requested the pipeline avoid wetlands and that the operations should provide certain measures to ensure water safety, comments the letter says were not addressed “in any substantive manner” by the most recent DEIS.
The letter outlined other major concerns the Department of Interior had about the DEIS:
Wildlife, especially nesting birds: The letter states that, contrary to the DEIS’s claims, Keystone XL would have “permanent impacts” on wildlife along its route, including “wildlife collisions and electrocutions with power lines and vehicle collisions with wildlife on project access roads.” The letter also points out that the DEIS has conflicting statements on the pipeline’s impact on nesting bird species. The DEIS states that impacts to migratory birds will be avoided by limiting construction to non-nesting times of year and prohibiting the cutting of trees with raptor nests in them, but goes on to state that direct impacts on small nesting birds could include “loss of eggs or young, or death,” and also seems to negate previous statements on limitations of construction timing by beginning a sentence with “If construction would occur during the nesting season.” The Interior Department’s letter also warns against the DEIS’s failure to adequately prepare for spills, stating that a spill occurring in the North Valley Grasslands Important Bird Area or the Rainwater Basin IBA could “severely impact critical habitat for migratory birds that spend part of their life cycle on Department managed lands.”
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