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Federal reports warn of dangers to human life, environment in rejecting Keystone project

A pair of reports released this week by federal agencies bolster arguments by supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline that the administration’s failure to approve the project would produce more and deadlier environmental disasters.

One of the reports finds that oil producers in North Dakota are increasingly opting to transport crude by rail as the pipeline remains in regulatory limbo. The other predicts that increased rail transportation will lead to more derailments and the deadly and environmentally catastrophic consequences that they entail.

Together, the two reports present a compelling case for the environmental benefits of the pipeline. However, environmentalists have described the pipeline as a “line in the sand,” and the Democratic Party is increasingly aligning itself with anti-Keystone voices—to the chagrin of other elements of its base.

The State Department’s report was actually an update to previous projections of the relative hazards of transporting oil via pipeline and rail. It initially found that the uptick in rail transit that would result from a rejection of the pipeline could cause 700 injuries and 92 deaths over 10 years.

Last week it increased those numbers substantially. Without Keystone, the State Department said, crude transportation could cause accidents resulting in 2,947 injuries and 434 deaths over the same period.

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