Late last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the federal government's draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project in the Federal Register, starting the 45-day public comment period that ends on April 22. In that SEIS, released on March 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of State concluded that the proposed pipeline would have limited impact on the environment, including on climate change.

The President is not expected to make a final decision on whether to approve the pipeline until after the State Department's review process has been concluded. Prior to the publication of the draft SEIS, there was considerable speculation that the President would ultimately not approve the pipeline in response to concerns about the project's impact on climate change. However, the SEIS recognized that the Canadian tar sands would be developed regardless of whether the Keystone XL Pipeline was constructed and, therefore, the pipeline itself would result in no significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The President himself has not given a clear indication yet whether he supports the pipeline.  For example, on March 13, 2013, the President visited with House Republicans in the U.S. Capitol without the media present and the Keystone project was discussed. After the meeting there was no consensus as to which way the President was leaning. Some Members felt he was inclined to approve the pipeline while others believed he was still leaning towards disapproving it. The President did convey that he would make a decision soon and so this comment period will be one of the last opportunities for the public to weigh in on the proposed pipeline. As such, interested parties are urged to file comments at the earliest possible opportunity. 

The public can view the draft SEIS by going to the State Departments' Keystone XL Pipeline website.