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State Department Indefinitely Delays Keystone XL Pipeline Decision

The U.S. State Department on Friday afternoon said that it is giving eight federal agencies an extension for reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline project proposal.

The department said the decision partly hinges on Nebraska Supreme Court litigation that could affect the pipeline's route. For that reason, there's no timeline on the delay.

"In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014," the State Department said in a statement.

While a Nebraska judge in February sided with landowners who argued that it was unconstitutional to grant the power of eminent domain to Gov. Heineman and, in turn, TransCananda to make way for Keystone, state Attorney General Jon Bruning appealed the ruling. The Lincoln Journal Star reported that "those following the case don't expect a decision until 2015."

Still, the delay was a cause for applause from the pipeline's opponents. 

"This is a huge victory for climate champions and communities from Alberta down to Nebraska and the Gulf," All Risk, No Reward Coalition spokeswoman Rachel Wolf said. "Every day without Keystone XL is a day that we keep high-carbon tar sands in the ground. The State Department's announcement to postpone a final decision on Keystone XL pending further certainty on the Nebraska route confirms, yet again, that this project not permit-able.

 

"This export pipeline fails the climate test, fails the jobs test, and doesn't even have a legal route."

 

To Tom Steyer and NextGen Climate, the delay only emphasizes the fact that it's a horrible idea.

"First, since the pipeline would significantly increase carbon pollution, we know that it fails the climate test laid out by President Obama last year," Steyer said. "Keystone XL is the economic key to unlocking the Alberta tar sands. As Canadian oil interests have confirmed, the oil industry cannot maximize the extraction of some of the world's dirtiest oil without it.

"Second, our leaders must demand that in advance of any decision on the project, TransCanada finally come clean on whether all of the refined oil will stay in the United States. TransCanada has said the United States should support the pipeline because it would provide energy independence for the United States, but they have ducked, dodged and refused to commit to keeping the refined oil in our country."

Still, others would have preferred an outright denial of the 1,179-mile pipeline.

“It is deeply disappointing that Secretary Kerry and President Obama can’t yet muster the courage to stand up to the oil industry and reject Keystone XL," said Elijah Zarlin, CREDO's senior campaign manager. “Still, this is yet another defeat for TransCanada, tar sands developers like the Koch Brothers, and oil-soaked politicians. No doubt, the nearly 100,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL played a key role in pushing the administration to more accurately consider the full impact of this project—which must clearly result in rejection.

"No delays will diminish our commitment to stopping Keystone XL."

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Judge Sides With Landowners, Strikes Down Eminent Domain Law Allowing Keystone XL

Keystone XL’s Environmental Impact an Afterthought on ‘Meet the Press’

Could We Win the Keystone XL Battle But Still Lose the Tar Sands War?

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The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

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