A coalition of environmentalists and tribal groups sued the U.S. State Department on Thursday for allegedly failing to assess the full environmental impact of Embridge Energy’s project to build a pipeline to pump 450,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from northern Alberta to refining facilities in Superior, Wisconsin.
The nonprofit law group Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of The Indigenous Environmental Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club.
The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California alleges that the State Department is ignoring the “serious environmental, climate, and human health impacts of tar sands oil” in a “departure from the Obama Administration’s commitment to a clean energy future.”
The State Department issued a permit for the Alberta Clipper pipeline on August 20th. In its public statement, the department wrote:
The Department found that the addition of crude oil pipeline capacity between Canada and the United States will advance a number of strategic interests of the United States. These included increasing the diversity of available supplies among the United States’ worldwide crude oil sources in a time of considerable political tension in other major oil producing countries and regions; shortening the transportation pathway for crude oil supplies; and increasing crude oil supplies from a major non-Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries producer.
InvestigateWest reporter Robert McClure on Wednesday blogged about new Chinese investments in the Alberta tar sands, whose reserves catapulted Canada into second place, only behind Saudi Arabia, among oil-producing nations. Canada’s proven reserves are eight times those of the United States.
The Alberta Energy Resources and Conservation Board estimates that more than 300 billion barrels may be extracted eventually from the oil sands, whose total deposit could reach 1.7 trillion barrels.
The environmental costs of extracting the oil extend far beyond constructing the pipeline, which the environmentalists calculate would “impact over 200 water bodies” and “destroy more than 1,200 acres of upland forested lands, more than 650 acres of open lands, and more than 1,300 acres of wetlands.”
The water- and energy-intensive process of producing a barrel of crude from the oil sands also produces three to five times more carbon dioxide than extracting it from Saudi Arabia, according to various studies.