TransCanada has sent a letter to the State Department on Monday asking to suspend building the Keystone pipeline amid the growing hostility shown by the Obama Administration. The application to build the nearly 1,200-mile-long pipeline (of which only 875 miles need to be completed), and requires presidential approval, has been waylaid for years by the current administration. TransCanada is ready to fold its tent and wait until after the next presidential election in 2016. The State Department has not indicated if it will accept TransCanada’s request to withdraw its permit for building the project.
The NY Times is also reporting that Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, said the president would make a decision regarding the pipeline this year or next, but gave no firm answers in the highly controversial pipeline. The pipeline, expected to carry 800,000 barrels of oil a day from the Alberta oil sands to the Gulf coast for refining, has been a rallying cry of Democrats and environmentalists who see the oil pipeline as contributing to global warming.
Proponents of the pipeline say it will “create jobs and stimulate economic growth” and many Democrats from oil-producing states also support the pipeline’s construction. TransCanada has already indicated that if the pipeline isn’t built, it will simply sell the oil elsewhere, specifically China, which has lax to no regulations governing oil refineries and power plants. Or use other means to transport its oil that don’t rely on the partially completed Keystone pipeline.
In a letter to the State Department, the company wrote, “In order to allow time for certainty regarding the Nebraska route, TransCanada requests that the State Department pause in its review of the presidential permit application for KeystoneXL.” The letter was signed by TransCanada’s general counsel Kristine Delkus. “This will allow a decision on the permit to be made later based on certainty with respect to the route of the pipeline.”
The State of Nebraska hasn’t finished its own review of the project, which could take anywhere from seven to 12 months. That’s because the pipeline’s route hasn’t been officially approved by Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality. “Opposition in Nebraska to a planned route through the state has delayed the process,” the Times writes.
A bill, co-signed by congressional Democrats and Republicans, was also sent to President Obama last February urging him to speed approval of the project. Obama vetoed that bill. The administration said the bill “impinged on the president’s authority to make the final decision.” Without a two-thirds majority in the Senate, the Congress was unable to override his veto.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has already said that if she were elected, she would not approve the pipeline, as she believes it would exacerbate global warming. This is bit of a flip-flop to her earlier statements as Secretary of State, where she said in 2010, “We are inclined to [approve Keystone] and we are for several reasons…we’re either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada.”
A surprising answer, considering how dependent Hillary is on jet fuel, a derivative of dirty oil, back then and now. Bloomberg reports Clinton took “more than 200 privately chartered flights at taxpayer expense” as a Senator and used corporations to jet her around to paid speaking engagements while First Lady and then as Senator. After her run as Secretary of State, Hillary “required groups to pay for private air travel when they booked her to speak. And fellow Democrats paid $1.5 million from political accounts to fly Clinton and her husband…to campaign events in the 2014 election cycle.”
In her more current incarnation of a less pecuniary presidential candidate, Hillary flies commercial to fundraisers, but always first class and always surrounded by Secret Service agents, much to the chagrin of other passengers who are trapped like “fish in a bowl” while her gasoline-chugging motorcade ferries her to and from the tarmac.
Nevertheless, there is no scientific data to back up Hillary’s claim of the pipeline worsening climate change, since, and as Hillary correctly noted as Secretary, the oil will be burned whether by us or another country. All the Republican presidential candidates have said that approval of the Keystone Pipeline would be a top priority, as it’s estimated to create up to 42,000 new jobs lasting one year or longer. That’s according to the State Department’s January 2014 summary report.
Meanwhile, “environmental activists have sought to block construction of the pipeline because it would be a conduit for petroleum from the Canada oil sands,” writes the Times. What activists are unwilling to acknowledge is that the Alberta tar sands oil will get transported whether the Keystone pipeline is built or not. Even the process of extracting tar sands oil is estimated to produce only 17 percent more greenhouse gases than drilling for traditional oil.
Except even State Department documents show that constructing the pipeline is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands.” In other words, the Keystone project would not significantly add to carbon dioxide levels. The 875-mile Keystone pipeline left to be built would carry oil from Western Canada to Steele City, Neb., and connect with an existing pipeline that opened in early 2014, eventually delivering its payload to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
What both sides do agree on is that approval of the Keystone Pipeline is more symbolic than anything else, as there is widespread bi-partisan support to build it. The Times also noted that if the State Department doesn’t accept TransCanada’s letter to suspend construction, Obama will likely not approve the pipeline before the upcoming climate talks in December, as it would tar his “ambitious legacy on climate change.”