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More environmental groups considering suing over the proposed tarsands pipeline

Four environmental groups are preparing a lawsuit that alleges the Obama administration has not adequately studied how the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline would affect several endangered species.

The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Nebraska Wildlife Federation sent a formal notice of intent to sue Thursday to the State Department – which is heading the federal review of the project – and several other agencies stating, “State and [the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] have failed to conduct formal consultation to consider the effects of the Keystone XL Pipeline project (Project) to the Whooping Crane, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, Pallid Sturgeon, and Arkansas River Shiner.”

The State Department picked a company called Cardno Entrix to help carry out the environmental impact statement on the Keystone pipeline.  Cardno Entrix listed among its chief clients …TransCanada.  And this apparent conflict puts in question the final report that came out in late August, stating the pipeline would have “no significant impact” on the nearby land and water resources.  The State Department hopes to make a final decision by the end of the year and the letter of notice of intent to sue is designed to ensure the option to litigate if the permit is issued.

The groups, in the letter, allege the “biological assessment” prepared alongside the EIS and a subsequent “biological opinion” prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were shoddy in their analysis of the pipeline’s effect on the species and that the unduly narrow analysis omits impacts such as the effects of habitat fragmentation from the Pipeline’s pump sites, construction camps, and power lines.”

The planned lawsuit comes in addition to separate, ongoing litigation by three other groups: the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Nebraska Resources Council and Friends of the Earth.

That litigation, filed in a Nebraska federal court, was expanded through an amended complaint this week that alleges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “unreasonably and unlawfully concurred that the Pipeline is ‘not likely to adversely affect’ endangered and threatened species.”