President Obama decided to delay a decision on the$ 7 billion Keystone XL Pipeline expansion running from Alberta to the Gulf coast until after the 2012 Presidential election. The State Department technically has the lead role in approval of the pipeline construction permit since it crosses the Canadian border. In a statement the State Department said it needed more time to review alternate routes out of an abundance of caution over the groundwater risk to the Ogallala Aquifer of any oil spill from the 1,700-mile pipeline carrying a heavy form of crude extracted from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.
This project has been on the table since January 2008 so there has been plenty of time for environmental review.
The real reason for the delay is that the President is between a political rock and hard place. He does not want to create a problem with his environmental base by approving the pipeline which they oppose. Nor does he want to disappoint his labor constituency which favors the project by disapproving it and eliminate the roughly 20,000 jobs the project would create.
The Department of State website on the project published the Biological Opinion required under the environmental review process which finds:
“The Service concurs with the DOS determinations that the proposed Project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the endangered black-footed ferret, Interior least tern, red-cockaded woodpecker, whooping crane, pallid sturgeon, blowout penstemon, and the Texas prairie dawn flower; and the threatened piping plover, Arkansas River shiner, and the western prairie fringed orchid. When effects to critical habitat are not likely to occur, as is the case for the Arkansas River shiner, the determination is “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” the critical habitat; the Service concurs with a NLAA determination.
Additionally, the correct effects determination for the mountain plover is “no effect,” because the species no longer has status under the ESA. The Service withdrew its proposed listing rule for the mountain plover on May 12, 2011 (75 FR 37353), and consultation is not required. A detailed discussion of factors contributing to the Service’s concurrence with the above NLAA effects determinations is on file at the Service’s Nebraska Field Office in Grand Island, Nebraska.
The Service acknowledges the “no effect” determinations by DOS, and no further consultation is required for these species. Finally, the Service concurs with the determination that the Project may affect and is likely to adversely affect the American burrowing beetle (ABB). Therefore, this Biological Opinion would analyze the effects of the proposed Project along with the effects of interrelated and interdependent activities on ABB, because the Keystone XL pipeline may affect and is likely to adversely affect this species. No critical habitat has been designated for the ABB, so the action would not modify critical habitat for this species.” (emphasis added)
This is hardly damning and certainly not a rational basis for delaying a decision on this project. Nothing will likely change in this opinion between now and the 2012 election. The reason for the delay is clear an apparent—politics.
So let’s see if we understand this. The President who demanded the Congress pass a jobs bill which his own party in the Senate ignored now delays a major energy construction project that would create 20,000 jobs and does not appear based upon the environmental review done to present any significant environmental risks until after the 2012 election—-yep that’s politics alright.
- Keystone Pipeline: decision delayed! (villow.wordpress.com)
- U.S. plans to review route for Keystone XL pipeline (ctv.ca)
- UPDATED: U.S. delays Keystone XL pipeline project (calgaryherald.com)
- State Department to delay decision on Keystone XL pipeline (dailykos.com)
- U.S. delays Keystone pipeline until after 2012 (marketwatch.com)