Keystone XL’s 1,222-Day ‘Rush’ Decision

The President’s decision to reject the Keystone XL project is an insult to the intelligence of anyone familiar with the issue. The justification that the Congressional deadline failed to provide enough time for him “to determine whether the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest” doesn’t withstand scrutiny. In the 3 years, 4 months, 5 days that have passed since TransCanada first filed the permit, the administration has reviewed over 10,000 pages of environmental studies, which showed the proposed pipeline posed no significant risk (a conclusion the State Department has reached twice).

For a point of reference, recall the TransAlaskan Pipeline (TAP). Congress approved the project in just around a year in 1974. And it was built in less than three. The TAP project was far more environmentally and technically challenging. In the decades that have followed, our understanding of engineering and environmental protections has improved.

Despite these advances and the years of positive environmental reviews on Keystone XL, EPA Administrator Jackson, the Jobs Terminator, weighed in and the White House retreated.

This is clearly a case of over-analyze and under-decide for political purposes. President Obama’s track record has made clear he harbors a bias against fossil energy and the benefits it provides. Just a week before rejecting this shovel ready project that would immediately create tens of thousands of jobs, the President embraced his Jobs Council report, which emphasized energy development and, in particular, the timely development of pipeline infrastructure.

Objections raised by the President’s environmental base don’t hold water. Regardless of America’s involvement, Canada’s oil sands will be developed. The question is whether that oil ultimately transported to the U.S. or Asia. Transporting the oil to Canada’s west coast and shipping it to Asia where it will be processed in refineries that are not as efficient or clean as ours carries with it far greater environmental risks. Further, the President could have approved the project on the condition that Nebraska and TransCanada agree on a route through the state. The Nebraska legislature unanimously approved legislation granting approval authority to the Governor. Of course, the threat to the Ogallala Aquifer was not a serious one as shown by a University of Nebraska geology professor.

Like Presidents before him, President Obama has given lip service to reducing imports from unstable regions of the world. In three years in office, he has done little beyond talk, instead giving large subsidies to alternative energy projects that have failed. The Keystone XL pipeline gave him an opportunity to substitute 400,000 barrels of Canadian oil for oil from the Persian Gulf. Even Iran’s bluster about shutting the Strait of Hormuz was not enough to get him to say ‘no’ to his environmental constituency.

The President’s failure to act to strengthen our alliances, reduce the risks associated with Persian Gulf imports and to promote a major job creation project is a dereliction of duty. Canada is one of our strongest allies. But the shabby treatment by this Administration on the Keystone issue puts an unnecessary strain on our relationship. A time will come when we need Canada’s cooperation and support. President Obama has made getting that harder. Moreover, 20 to 25 million Americans are un- or underemployed. The national unemployment rate is north of 8% and would be higher if those who have given up looking for jobs were counted.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released a study entitled “Progress Denied” that documented the economic loss of energy projects that are being delayed. While the Chamber acknowledges that not all of the projects it reviewed would be completed in the absence of regulatory barriers and obstructionist actions, the study demonstrates that the private sector is prepared to make substantial investments that would contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to economic growth and create a significant number of new jobs. Keystone XL is just one example of the Administration’s failure to walk the walk when it comes to job creation and restoring healthy economic growth.

This article appeared on the National Journal’s Energy & Environment weblog at

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