05.29.2013 1

Keystone obfuscation must end now!

By Duggan Flanakin and Craig Rucker

Four-plus years into the Obama Administration, the President continues to hide behind administrative agencies and “studies” regarding his true intentions on the Keystone XL Pipeline. This vital link between Canadian oil and U.S. refineries would bring jobs and prosperity to hundreds of thousands of people in both countries – and greatly reduce our reliance on imports from unstable, unreliable, unfriendly nations.

The State Department recently issued a report which urged approval for Keystone XL and found that the pipeline would cause no meaningful harm to the environment.  Yet the endless delays continue.  The latest was a tedious claim by the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency that extensive environmental impact studies to date are still insufficient.

Many in Congress are fed up with obstructive delays and are now considering “The Northern Route Approval Act,”  which would expedite approval of the final phase of pipeline construction, by declaring that no Presidential Permit is required for TransCanada’s application (filed on May 4, 2012) to construct the portion from the Canadian border to Steele City, Nebraska.

The final environmental impact statement issued by the Secretary of State, along with other completed studies, should be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should also cease obstructing the pipeline.  The Service has long ignored the slaughter of thousands of bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons, whooping cranes and other bird and bat species by wind turbines. It has even proposed to give turbine operators 30-year “incidental take” permits for such species.

To many, it seems incongruous, even outrageous, that boring beetles, an insect slightly impacted by a pipeline would receive greater protection than vital bird and bat species that are routinely maimed and killed by wind turbines. Those latter wildlife impacts are even less defensible considering that $26 billion in Energy Department subsidies and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects since 2009 have created only 2,298 permanent jobs, at a cost of $11.45 million per job, according to the Institute for Energy Research.)

Roadblocks are everywhere.  Had this bureaucratic morass existed in the 1960s, the United States would have never been able to put a man on the moon. Similar bureaucratic actions and seemingly endless environmentalist lawsuits against the Trans-Alaska Pipeline finally convinced Congress to pass legislation putting an end to those delays.

If he truly cares about American jobs, it is time for President Obama to expedite approval of Keystone. Any further delay would send a clear signal to the nation, and to Canada, that he will never approve the project and has no real interest in creating jobs and getting our economy back on track. The charade would be over.  The President who promised to bankrupt coal companies would go on record as trying to bankrupt oil companies and keep Americans in unemployment lines.

In recent weeks, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, legislators and various former U.S. officials have pressed harder for Presidential action and an end to construction obstruction. On May 15 Mr. Harper said Keystone is so important to Canada’s and America’s future that “this absolutely has to go ahead,” especially since approval would create 40,000 jobs in the United States alone.

MIT energy economics professor Christopher Knittel told the House Small Business Subcommittee that “tar sands are certainly more energy intensive than average oil refined in the U.S. – requiring more energy at the extraction phase.” But the question is, “What oil will replace the tar sands,” if the U.S. rejects Keystone?  Knittel noted that Venezuelan oil is “dirtier than tar sand” oil. So are other imported crudes.

Brigham McCown, former head of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, told the House Subcommittees on Energy and the Environment that, “based on the available information and plans for construction, the completed Keystone system would be the safest pipeline ever built in this country.”  Moreover, he said, “pipelines represent the best option when it comes to moving large volumes of energy” – far better and safer than truck or rail alternatives that we would be forced to use is Keystone is rejected.

“This project has been studied more than any other project of its kind,” House Transportation Chair Bill Shuster (R, PA) points out. “Pipeline opponents do not mind endless reviews, but they will only be truly happy if and when the final death knell is sounded for this jobs and prosperity creating project.”  Meanwhile, the President continues to dissemble – promising “not to rush” his decision, which really means he would love to wait until after the 2014 elections to announce his final decision.

Meanwhile, EPA and the State Department continue doing nothing, the President claims he can do nothing until the two agencies stop doing nothing, and Americans wait for jobs and economic recovery.

Craig Rucker is the executive director and co-founder of CFACT. Duggan Flanakin is director of research and international programs for CFACT.

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