The Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Is far from a Done Deal
There has been a lot of speculation that there will be a quick decision to approve the northern segment of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the media this week. It started only days after President Obama was re-elected with Canadian Natural Resources Minister Oliver predicting that the pipeline would be approved quickly following the election. TransCanada, the company that has proposed the pipeline, is also predicting a quick approval (something they have done numerous times in the past). These predictions have been wrong and ignore the facts. President Obama made clean energy and environmental protection a concern in his first term and we expect it will remain and even increase as a priority. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is clearly counter to an agenda that promotes clean energy and fighting global warming.
Optimistic statements by the oil industry and the Canadian government that this pipeline will be approved have been made in the past and have been proven wrong. These guys are bad prognosticators. They've said this before. Repeatedly. And they were wrong.
The pipeline is not going to get quick approval now that the election is over. And predictions that President Obama will approve the northern segment of Keystone XL ignore the process and American expectations on climate.
How do I know?
Instead of making wishful predictions, I am just looking at the status of the process already laid out. The northern portion of Keystone XL is in the midst of an environmental review which is in the very early stages. The notice from the State Department initiating the process was in June 2011. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement has not even been issued. Following the release of that EIS, we expect a lengthy public comment period including hearings in pipeline states. There will also be another process whereby the administration must make a National Interest Determination on the pipeline. And there is a separate process underway in Nebraska to look at potential alternative routes.
TransCanada’s misplaced confidence has been evident since they first started the process:
In 2010, TransCanada Corp said it did not expect significant delays to the proposed project.
In February 2011, the company said “it now expects U.S. authorities to approve the project in the last six months of 2011.”
In September, 2011, a few months before the State Department halted the environmental review, the company said “we are increasingly optimistic about the likelihood of a presidential permit.”
In April of this year, Trans Canada said they are “optimistic that the pipeline will be green-lighted and project a construction start date for early next year” with oil flowing in 2015.
TransCanada and other supporters of the pipeline are rattling sabers and being as noisy as possible to make it seem like approval of the pipeline is a done deal. And they really want it to happen fast as post-Sandy elevated climate concerns make the argument against high-carbon tar sands.
Moreover, we are now in a political landscape where Americans are expecting action on climate change. Approving Keystone XL is directly counter to a pro-active climate agenda. Two-thirds of Americans are concerned about global warming. In a recent poll, 9 out of 10 registered voters want the U.S. to develop and use solar power. Over 90 percent of car owners in the U.S. want to see stricter fuel-economy standards. President Obama himself indicated that reducing oil demand could eliminate the need for the pipeline.
In other words, this pipeline is far from a done deal. It will undergo a thorough environmental review in a political climate where Americans want action on global warming. President Obama has personally committed to this review before making any decision. This pipeline does not align with a pro-climate agenda. And if you consider those facts then the Obama administration will have no other choice than to reject the pipeline.
For the past 20 years, I have worked in the United States and Canada on a wide range of issues. I started as a reporter working on a story about a polluting pulp and paper mill in North Carolina and eventually joined the fight to clean up the plant. Since then, I have championed the protection of clean water, the restoration of rivers, and campaigned for clean air. Today at NRDC, I work on ...
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