President Obama Delays Decision On Keystone XL Yet Again
Repeating a pattern that it has followed virtually since the beginning of his time in the White House, President Obama’s Administration has once again announced a delay in the process that is supposed to lead to final decision on whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline will go forward:
The State Department said Friday that while the public comment period will not be extended, executive agencies need more time to review the submitted comments as well as consider a Nebraska court case surrounding the pipeline. The indefinite extension could put off a decision on the pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canadian tar sands to American refineries, until after November’s midterm elections.
“On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the department said in a statement. “Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state. In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.
“The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents,” the State Department statement continued. “The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.”
Many commentators and politicians on the right are accusing the Administration of delaying the decision for political reasons, just as they did when a similar delay was announced prior to the 2012 Presidential Election. In all honesty, it’s hard not to see political motives behind this at this point. The relevant applications have been pending for several years, all the requested information has been provided, and everyone who has wanted to comment about the matter has had more than enough time to do so. Just as their was election pending in 2012, during which a story that the Administration had yet again denied an application to construct a pipeline that, according to most credible estimates, could add tens of thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars of real economic stimulus rather than government money that went to favored political groups, and a not inconsiderable amount of revenue into the tax coffers of the United States and the states that it runs through would have been damaging not just to the President’s campaign but also for down ticket races around the country. Similarly, this year Democrats face the prospect of losing Senate races in four states that the pipeline would run though, Montana, South Dakota, and Louisiana. On the other side of the debate, though, there is also a sizable environmental contingency that is opposing the pipeline, and those are the people who write the big checks in the Democratic Party these days. Rather than upsetting either interest group, delaying a final decision until after the election makes sense, even though it is completely cynical and irresponsible.
I am not going to pretend to be an expert in all of the issues that the Keystone XL project raises. However, based on what I have read it seems fairly clear to me that the benefits of allowing the project to go forward far outweigh the costs, and that most of the risks that the opponents of the project have raised have been hysterically overstated. In addition to helping to promote energy independence for North America and strengthening even more our relationship with Canada, the pipeline would be a fantastic source of real economic stimulus for the states it runs through and for the nation as a whole. It could also potentially help promote additional oil shale exploration in the Upper Far West, something that has already brought astounding economic stimulus to North Dakota, which happens to have the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the nation. Adding all of this together, the decision to approve the pipeline seems like a no-brainer. Instead, the Obama Administration continues to dither.