Government Bytes


Keystone Pipeline Keeps Hitting White House Roadblocks

by Sharon Koss / /

The public and many in Congress continue to support construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline despite President Obama’s unrealistically low job creation projections. The administration has impeded construction of the pipeline for five years while it has called for multiple environmental impact assessments. Each time a result falls in favor of TransCanada, the company requesting the construction permit, the administration asks for another report or for an additional application, effectively preventing construction.

First, the administration requested a study by the State Department, under the direction of Hillary Clinton, on the environmental impacts of the Pipeline. When the report detailed that no substantial impact would occur, the President rejected the permit and asked TransCanada to reapply. When they did so, Obama announced that he would delay the decision until after the 2012 election. Now, a year and a half later, although TransCanada has completed two legs of the pipeline, it has no more certainty as to whether it will be allowed to build the section which extends over the northern border of the United States.

On July 24th, in an interview with The New York Times, The President belittled the potential economic benefits of the Pipeline, contending that it will only create 2,000 jobs during construction and 50 to 100 permanent jobs. The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” responded to the President’s statement by recalling the job estimates released by TransCanada and the State Department, his executive agency. They called into question his calculations and stated that the figure was more accurately anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 jobs. Other projections put the job count at 20,000. While these numbers vary, there is consensus that it would create a substantial number of jobs in a still-struggling economy.

On a more fundamental level, the Administration is unnecessarily preventing a private company from materializing a project which would provide the United States access to 500,000 barrels of oil per day from a stable ally. Privately created jobs, however many, will benefit the economy. Regardless, a company should not have to prove that it would create a minimum number of jobs to qualify for the presidential approval.

At the same time, environmental concerns should be assuaged by the extremely rigorous safety guidelines and consideration of risk at every step in the process. In Canada a combination of monitoring and new technologies have helped to both reduce environmental impact and spur development.. Heading south via the Pipeline, The New York Times reports that a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences found that the tar sands derived oil, also called diluted bitumen, is “no riskier to transport than other types of crude oil.” And TransCanada has even agreed to comply with 57 additional construction conditions demanded by the U.S. government:

TransCanada maintains its commitment to build Keystone XL as safely and reliably as possible. To that end, the company will adopt and comply with 57 special conditions developed by the U.S. federal pipeline regulator PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) that provide an even greater confidence in the operation and monitoring of the pipeline, including: a higher number of remotely controlled shut-off valves, increased pipeline inspections and pipe that is buried deeper in the ground. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project issued in August 2011 concluded the incorporation of the 57 special conditions 'would result in a project that would have a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current code.'

The House recently passed the Northern Route Approval Act to bypass the presidential approval process for the Pipeline. The Senate is proceeding with plans of its own to allow construction. It is time for a nation with access to great energy resources to allow the implementation of policy to progress. With no legitimate legal issues and no identified significant environmental impacts, people must ask, “Why does the President keep adding hoops for this project to jump through?”