Waiting on the President: Keystone Pipeline
The President has held up the Keystone XL Pipeline for far too long. This week, the Governor of Nebraska dismantled the last possible obstruction to this project that would spur the creation of thousands of jobs and improve our nation’s energy security. It is time for the President to put politics aside and place our national interest first.
On Tuesday, the Governor of Nebraska sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in support of a newly proposed route for the Keystone Pipeline that he says addresses all possible state and environmental concerns.
In 2009, TransCanada filed an application with the US Department of State to build the Keystone XL to transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil from the sands region of Alberta to refineries in the US.
After completing all the necessary environmental reviews, the Administration moved the goal posts and required additional studies, and additional delays.
Finally, this time last year, the President rejected the pipeline, arguing there were still more environmental concerns because the proposed path could potentially threaten the Sandy Hills area in Nebraska.
This has been a four-year process and has involved exhaustive environmental reviews- as it should. Projects like the Keystone Pipeline should involve studies and reviews that make sure we are not putting the environment and local communities through undue risk.
But there was a point when the Administration seemed more driven by political motivations than environmental or economic ones. USAToday called the decision to deny the pipeline, “the most craven sort of election-year politics. The Obama administration seemed to be on its way to approving Keystone when environmental groups made the pipeline a key test of their support for the president, who suddenly decided the administration couldn't possibly make a decision until sometime after the election.”
As a result, TransCanada resubmitted a route for the pipeline that avoided potentially sensitive lands and received approval from Nebraska’s Governor.
With the state’s key approval and his re-election secured, what is holding President Obama back? The newly-proposed route makes this clear: the President has no possible bureaucratic excuse to deny its approval again.
The President claimed concerns with the proposed route in 2012, and his concerns have now been met. I hope commonsense will prevail in the Administration, and any political concerns with expanding and using fossil fuels will be set aside for the sake of growing our economy and helping our country reach better energy security.
There is concern; however, that commonsense won’t prevail. The President vowed in his Inauguration speech to fight climate change, but did not mention any specific ideas or what that means. Environmental groups are already calling on the President to reject the Keystone Pipeline because it transports “dirty oil.”
The State Department signaled that it would be at least three more months until the government’s own environmental studies would be complete.
In the meantime, the support in Congress to build the Keystone Pipeline is bipartisan and building. Last year, over 100 Democratic Members of Congress requested the President approve the Pipeline, saying it would spur 100,000 direct and spin off jobs. This week, 53 Senators wrote the President to swiftly approve this new Pipeline route because of the economic and energy benefits.
The Keystone Pipeline is a critical opportunity to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. If the Administration is honest about pursuing an “all-of-the-above energy strategy,” then fossil fuels, particularly from friendly allies, should be included. Last year, the President risked the possibility that Canada would look elsewhere for partners to whom they could export their resources. He should not delay this project any longer.