The facts about Keystone XL

Yesterday, President Obama announced that he had rejected the permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The decision came despite the State Department’s rigorous study showing that the Keystone XL pipeline would pose no undue risks to people or the environment – neither by the type of crude it would be carrying, nor by the safety of the pipeline itself.

The president cited “the rushed and arbitrary deadline” set by Congress.

And the State Department, despite its earlier findings, informed the president it “does not have sufficient time” to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project is in “the national interest.”

A look at the facts, however, indicates otherwise.

Evidence over 39 months

According to the State Department’s own assessment, Keystone is one of the most exhaustively studied, technologically innovative, and environmentally responsible pipelines in the world.

The Keystone application was filed with the State Department on September 19, 2008.

Since then:

  • The State Department studied 14 potential routes for their safety and impact.
  • Government and industry held more than 100 open houses, hearings, and meetings with the public.
  • Multiple hearings were held in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, D.C.
  • As a result of this fact-finding process, government and industry gathered thousands of pages of supplemental information and responded to questions submitted by state and federal agencies.
  • In the course of its multi-year evaluation, the State Department issued a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), a supplemental draft EIS, and a final EIS that totaled more than 10,000 pages.  The EIS concluded that the pipeline would pose “no significant impacts” to most resources with environmental protection measures in place.
  • To date, the entire review process has generated more than 300,000 comments from the public.

Clearly, there has been sufficient time to assess the project. But when it came time to make a decision back in November, the administration proposed yet another delay.

The Nebraska excuse

The Administration said it needed more time to determine the safest route through Nebraska. Congress addressed that claim. Its legislation asked the president to make the national interest determination and gave Nebraska the power to do the final environmental evaluation of its section.

In other words, the president could approve the pipeline and construction could begin while Nebraska determined the safest, most efficient and most responsible route through the state.

In putting forward the Nebraska excuse, the administration acted as though there was no firm foundation of safety analysis. But this doesn’t square with the facts either.

The State Department’s final EIS noted the pipeline would go beyond previous safety requirements:

“Keystone agreed to design, construct, operate, maintain, and monitor the proposed Project in accordance with the more stringent 57 Project specific Special Conditions in addition to complying with the existing [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] regulatory requirements. In consultation with PHMSA, [the State Department] determined that incorporation of the Special Conditions would result in a Project that would have a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current regulations and a degree of safety along the entire length of the pipeline system that would be similar to that required in high consequence areas as defined in the regulations.” [Emphasis added.]

Just how detailed was the State Department’s safety and environmental analysis? At one point in the 39-month valuation period, State did determine that Keystone could be built in a way that would protect the future of the American burying beetle.

Consequences for the future

Keystone XL would have created more than 20,000 construction jobs and more than 118,000 spin-off jobs for local businesses along the route at a time when the economy is struggling.

Over the long term, it would have strengthened America’s energy security and international competitiveness by delivering crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to refiners and manufacturers in Texas.

For these reasons, Keystone enjoyed tremendous support over the past 39 months. Democrats and Republicans, union workers and union leaders, business and industry, and the Canadian government have all spoken in favor of Keystone.

Even the State Department has backed similar pipelines – recommending permits in a fraction of the time. Keystone I took 693 days to approve.  Alberta Clipper took 829 days.  Keystone XL has already taken nearly 1200 days.

As the administration’s foot dragging has become more obvious, the Canadian government has repeatedly warned that the energy that would have traveled through the Keystone pipeline would likely be routed to the west, not south – to China, Japan, and the dynamic economies of Asia.

Ignoring their own review

As the facts of the Keystone process indicate, the Obama administration has chosen to act contrary to its own exhaustive review of the evidence – and the president’s stated belief that Canada is “a stable and steady and reliable source” of energy for the United States.

Most people agree that the administration’s decision has little to do with economic growth, job creation, or our national interest.

Instead the president has chosen to bow to the vocal demands of a small number of activists during an election year, rather than protect the future of U.S. workers or our trading relationship with our peaceful neighbor Canada.


  • Worth a deeper look...