The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a $5.6 billion pipeline dredging project that will destroy more than 700,000 acres of wetlands in southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry crude oil from Canada’s oil sands through Iowa to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico and to the Gulf Coast.
But environmental groups say the proposed project could pollute waterways in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware.
The Keystone XL project would run from the Gulf to Texas, which is home to the world’s largest oil sands reserves, where it would pass under the Ohio River and head into the Gulf.
EPA spokesman John B. White said the agency will give a final environmental impact report on the project in June.
“The pipeline would disturb and destroy habitat, disrupt fish and wildlife habitats, and degrade the environment for decades to come,” White said in a statement.
“It is a reckless, reckless project that would not be built or operated today, and would have devastating impacts on communities along the pipeline’s path.”
The EPA says the pipeline will also disturb and kill endangered sea turtles.
“Pipeline infrastructure that is used to transport oil is often designed to create a more stable environment and enhance the health and wellbeing of the people who live and work within it,” said EPA regional administrator John E. Gibbs in a memo to the agency’s regional office in New York.
The EPA said the project is “not likely to have a significant impact on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay or elsewhere, nor would it significantly impact aquatic species or fish.”
“The only significant impacts from this project will be to create an easement for oil companies to use on their land to build the pipeline, and to remove a significant amount of wetlands and riparian habitats,” the agency added.
A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which is an environmental group, estimated the pipeline could have a net negative effect on wetlands along the route, and that the area could lose 30,000 fish.
“If the pipeline is allowed to proceed, it will cause serious damage to the Cheshire wetlands, with potential for massive, irreversible damage to other watersheds, including the Ohio, Delaware and Erie rivers,” UCS said in its report.
“The destruction of these important natural and cultural resources will have a devastating impact on the communities along these waterways, with potentially devastating effects on fish and other wildlife populations.”
The new report came just days after a group of scientists from across the country and around the world sent a letter to President Barack Obama warning of the environmental devastation caused by the proposed Keystone pipeline.
The group said that in addition to harming habitat and fish, the proposed pipeline would also harm water quality and pollute the air.
“Keystone XL would create an environmentally disastrous pipeline,” the group said.
“With the addition of toxic heavy metals and other chemicals to the crude oil, the pipeline would damage the air, water and soil of the region, which will make our communities less safe and more vulnerable to climate change.”
The pipeline’s proposed route also includes a section that would run through wetlands in southeastern Ohio.