BLM Examines Emissions Impacts of Oil Pipeline to Supply Las Vegas

The Bureau of Land Management this week released the draft general conformity determination for Cal Nev Pipeline company's proposed 16 inch diameter oil pipeline that will run from Colton, California through the Mojave Desert and terminate in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The determination assesses the pipeline's "direct and indirect" impacts on air quality standards during construction and operation, but ironically does not evaluate emissions from the actual use of the oil the pipeline will carry.

The new pipeline would run mostly parallel to existing lines and expand the system's carrying capacity by nearly 44,000 barrels per day, bringing the total oil transmission in the Cal Nev Pipeline system to 200,000 barrels per day.  The company says that the new capacity is needed to fuel Las Vegas' tourism industry and McCarran International Airport.  

The new capacity could facilitate an increase in the region's CO2 emissions by 18,920 metric tons per day, based on EPA estimates.   That would be 6,905,000 metric tons of CO2 each year, assuming the pipeline is running at full capacity.  As with the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the environmental analysis completed last year for the Cal Nev Pipeline only considered emissions associated with construction, and not the impacts associated with increasing the supply of oil to be burned.
All air emissions associated with the Proposed Project would occur only during construction, which will occur for a period of approximately one year. In addition, emissions would be localized within the construction area, so would only occur in each specific area for a period of a few days before the construction zone moves on.  - Cal Nev Draft EIS, 2012
Although most of the new pipeline will follow an existing pipeline right of way, the new construction activity will require new or enhanced maintenance roads in the desert and extensive excavation activity.  The pipeline also crosses the Mojave River in a couple of places, and runs not far from riparian habitat near Zzyzx.  It is not clear how extensive contamination would be if the pipeline ruptured near one of these rare desert water sources.


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