Keystone XL Pipeline
By: John Hampton
The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project would connect the oil sands in Alberta Canada to the United States gulf coast. This nearly 1700 mile distance would be spanned by way of a 36″ pipeline. This would allow significant new oil supplies to flow to refineries located in Texas. TransCanada originally submitted an application to the U.S. Department of State to build the pipeline in September of 2008.
It is reported that actual pipeline construction and ancillary activity will create tens of thousands of new jobs along the route. Follow on maintenance would continue to provide jobs after completion of the pipeline. And how can an abundant source of oil from a neighboring ally be ignored when alternate supplies are often threatened by world events?
According to the House Energy & Commerce Committee, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Laborers’ International Union of North America have all executed a project labor agreement to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. They say they are committed to making the pipeline a reality for our Nation and are prepared to begin work as soon as the Presidential Permit for the $7 billion privately funded Keystone XL Pipeline is approved.
The State Department must first give its approval to the project. In October of 2010, Secretary of State Clinton said she was inclined to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. In January 2011 TransCanada agreed to adopt the 57 project specific special conditions for design, construction and operation of the pipeline. These conditions were developed by the State Department and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. In January of 2011, The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement posited that these conditions would give the Keystone XL Pipeline “a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline”, making it truly state of the art.
And on many occasions our President has said “we can’t wait for Congress to act” when it comes to job creation and other issues vital to Americans. So given all these conditions, the Keystone XL Pipeline would have to be a done deal – wouldn’t it? Of course not! In November of last year, the Obama Administration announced that it would pursue a new route for the pipeline, which would require a new environmental study, and add 15 to 18 additional months to the approval process. Our government has once again precariously positioned a looming defeat over what should have been an easy and much needed victory. And so the fate of the pipeline, along with the jobs it would create and the energy it would deliver, is now officially in limbo.
Are there opponents to pipeline? Are there inherent risks? Could there be unintended consequences? The answer to all of these questions is an unqualified yes. Some opponents assert that the pipeline route across the state of Nebraska may contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer. This is obviously a critical concern, and in response, TransCanada has already agreed to reroute the pipeline to placate those opponents. Others argue that the number of jobs created will be less than predicted, the amount of oil delivered will not significantly reduce our dependence on foreign sources, the pipeline could become a terrorist target, etc. etc. etc.
Legitimate health and safety concerns must be addressed, but as noted above, The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement indicated that Keystone XL would be a truly state of the art pipeline. That sounds like tacit approval. Would Obama’s EPA, armed with its tome of onerous regulations, endorse a project of this magnitude without first thoroughly scrutinizing it?
Life is full of risks and unintended consequences, but we are fast approaching a place where we have very few alternatives remaining, if we ever expect to achieve any measure of energy independence. Additionally, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he will sell tar sands oil to China if the United States does not approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. If another 15 months is added to the approval process, China may well become the benefactor of our failure to act.
This is another opportunity for President Obama to demonstrate to the American people that he is concerned about job creation, that he understands the importance of oil as a source of energy, that he is determined not to allow China the unimpeded opportunity to gain a strategic advantage over America, and that he is intent on seeing the United States maintain its Super Power status.
But now we are in an election year, and the President knows that as soon as he states a definitive position, either in favor of or opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline, he will alienate any potential campaign contributors who disagree with his position. Last month’s embarrassing Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act (HR 3765) signed by the President on December 23rd requires him to make a final decision on the pipeline within 60 days (no later than February 21st). But of course there is a caveat: the President can exempt himself from his duty to make a decision on the pipeline simply by saying that he believes it is not in the National interest. I guess it will depend on what your definition of National interest is.
For 3 years, the Obama Administration has known of its responsibility to make a decision on this matter. However, President Obama seems unqualified to make such high level decisions. As in the debt ceiling debate and the payroll tax cut extension, this administration is once again attempting to stall off a critical decision as long as possible, and ultimately use it as a political lever. And let’s not forget, the Democrat controlled Senate has now exceeded 900 days since it last produced a budget. Fearing they will completely expose their true agenda of increased regulation, further expansion of government and spending financed by tax increases, class warfare and income redistribution to name but a few, this administration offers nothing more than stop-gap measures to even the most basic of problems. Is this Leadership?
Legerdemain tactics continue to rule in Washington, while anger and frustration grows among Americans as we try to understand why our government is subjecting us to its own unique version of “shock and awe”.
John Hampton lives in Tehachapi CA and is quite concerned about the policies and motives of the current Administration. He believes in a system that holds our freedoms sacred, promotes personal responsibility, prudence and high moral standards.