Opinion: A Warning from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on the Keystone pipeline proposal

Our opinion: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says federal review of the Keystone XL pipeline is woefully incomplete. How can anyone ignore the legal mandate to consider environmental damage?

Really, now, how could the Obama administration seem to favor allowing a pipeline carrying oil from the tar sands of western Canada all the way to Texas without assessing how that would contribute to climate change?

What qualifies as one of the most controversial energy projects in recent history deserves careful scrutiny by all sides. Notably, Secretary of State John Kerry needs to answer the questions laid out in a two-pronged challenge by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

What seems to emerge is a glaring lapse in sound environmental policy in a State Department review of the Keystone XL pipeline. The oil consumption that the pipeline would enable would add as much as 3,740 million metric tons of additional climate change pollution, according to scientific consensus cited by Mr. Schneiderman.

More to the point, Mr. Schneiderman says, the State Department�s belief that the pipeline could be constructed without damaging the environment runs contrary to federal environmental law � and, we might add, to common sense.

The 1969 National Environmental Policy Act requires that greenhouse gas emissions should have been considered before the State Department issued a noncommittal 2,000-page report on the pipline.

�It is indisputable that Keystone XL and related tar sand oil transportation projects will result in the emission of tremendous amounts of climate change pollution,� says Mr. Schneiderman, pointing out that crude oil taken out of the tar sands produces 17 percent more such pollution than oil extracted from other places and by other means. �Without a full assessment of the climate change impacts of this and associated pipelines, the feds cannot possibility judge whether Keystone XL is in the public interest.�

Mr. Schneiderman can claim some neutrality in the raging debate over the tar sands project. The pipeline won�t be going through New York and won�t disrupt life here. Nor will the jobs and other immediate economic benefits be coming here.

But New York has the same investment as everyplace else in controlling the effects of climate change � especially in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. The greenhouse gas emissions from Keystone and from the burning of the crude oil it will carry, Mr. Schneiderman says, could be as much as 14 times higher than the state�s annual emissions.

It was just a week ago, on Earth Day, that Mr. Kerry was demanding that the international community confront climate change. Now it�s his responsibility to heed Mr. Schneiderman�s concern that the tar sands oil venture could make that crisis worse.