Keystone XL Pipeline Records Sought in Sierra Club Suit

Keystone XL pipeline records are being sought by the Sierra Club in a lawsuit claiming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has to make public documents related to its review of TransCanada Corp.’s project.

The Army Corps has wrongly withheld records describing the pipeline’s path in relation to communities and sensitive water resources, according to the environmental group’s complaint filed yesterday in federal court in San Francisco.

TransCanada applied more than five years ago for a permit to build the pipeline through the U.S. heartland, connecting oil sands in Alberta with refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. The 875-mile (1,409-kilometer) pipeline would run from the U.S.-Canada border to Steele City, Nebraska. From there it would connect to an existing network.

In its final environmental review, the U.S. State Department on Jan. 31 found the Canada-U.S. oil pipeline wouldn’t greatly increase carbon emissions because the oil sands in Alberta will be developed anyway.

The report increases the likelihood that the $5.4 billion pipeline ultimately wins approval, perhaps as soon as July, according to analysts including Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners LLC in Washington.

Global Warming

Environmental groups such as Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have opposed Keystone, saying it would exacerbate global warming.

The Sierra Club has three times requested documents that are “crucial for a full understanding of the pipeline’s impacts and areas threatened by a tar sands oil spill,” according to the complaint. The group seeks a court order requiring the Army Corps to turn over all documents the Sierra Club sought in a freedom-of-information request.

The Army Corps has refused to turn over the records based on its “deliberative process” privilege that the Sierra Club argues doesn’t apply to documents filed by private parties such as TransCanada, according to the complaint. Sierra appealed the decision and argues in its complaint that the Army Corps has failed to rule on its appeal by a required deadline.

Gene Pawlik, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 14-cv-00538, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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