The public has until midnight Monday to comment on the recently updated draft environmental impact study for the Keystone XL pipeline. Commenters include Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock.
In the final hours of the 45-day comment period, the submission count passed the 1,000-comment mark. Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, helped get it there. On Monday his office submitted comments on behalf of the State of Montana expressing concerns about potential spills and impacts to tribal nations.
Montana’s Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tim Fox has come out in support of the pipeline. Last month, he filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to support the pipeline.
In a court filing, his office says the pipeline would be an economic boon for the state, primarily filling the seven counties it’s supposed to cross with $63 million in property taxes.
Commenters raised concerns over potential environmental impacts after the existing Keystone system had one of the biggest onshore spills of the past decade. It leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons of oil in eastern North Dakota last month, according to its Canadian owner, TC Energy.
One commenter said, “The very real risks of a devastating oil spill from the Keystone XL Pipeline is far too great.”
Another said that he’s “comfortable with the precautions the leaders of the project have taken to protect the surrounding environment,” adding that the pipeline should move forward because of its economic gain to the counties it’ll cross.
Public response to the project has varied over its decade-plus battle to secure necessary permits and clear environmental assessments. Over 125,000 people responded to then-Transcanada’s second application for a presidential permit in 2012. Comments have dwindled as the fight for the pipeline moves to more localized or technical grounds, like when just fifty-five people commented on the State Department’s notice to prepare an Environmental Assessment of an alternative route for the project last year.
The current public comment period was on an update to the original environmental impacts draft, which a federal judge ordered to include further environmental analysis last year.
Now the State Department will consider all substantive comments—those are comments that relate to the scope of the environmental draft. If necessary, it will complete more environmental analysis to look into the questions raised by substantive comments.
Then, the State Department will publish a final environmental draft and wait at least 30 days to issue a Record of Decision.
A spokesperson for the State Department says the agency is grateful for all the comments received and will work to review the comments in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management and other U.S. agencies to finalize and public the SEIS.
As of 4:39 PM Mountain Time, the spokesperson says the draft SEIS has about 1,800 comments.
Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America corps member.