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.


11 Comments

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  1. Roger Chenoweth says:

    What role is /was Keystone projected to provide in transporting new crude oil production from North Dakota? Will additional pipeline(s) be needed across Nebraska? In other words how will new domestic production in North Dakota reach refining markets?

  2. Linda Brown says:

    Yes, this was a sad and disappointing event. It is a real shame that this current administration is only concerned with getting re-elected and trying to look good for his core supporters.
    Looks like more of the same until November.
    And they just won’t quit. A new bill (H.R. 3784 – the Gas Price Spike Act of 2012) was just introduced that would impose a windfall profit tax on oil and natural gas. This one really needs to be killed.
    Looking forward to November and a Republican majority that will be more favorable to the oil and gas industry.

    • Jim Harris says:

      Yes, and it was an even bigger shame when Mitch McConnell stood up and said the sole goal of the Republican party was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. And of course, he and his cronies have demonstrated over and over again that they do not have the best interests of the country at heart…like when they vote against what polls have shown the American people clearly want, and when they ignore America’s economic problems and concentrate on social engineering.
      Looks like even more of the same until November.
      And will you please explain to me why a windfall profit tax on oil and natural gas should be killed? Oil companies are already experiencing record profits…and the prices I pay for gas at the pump are going up again, despite the fact that the US is now a net exporter of gasoline. Why exactly do we need to be more favorable to the oil and gas industry? Seems like they are doing pretty well, and they definitely don’t have our best interests at heart.
      You also forgot to mention that if Keystone is built, one result will be that gas prices to the upper midwest will rise…because that oil and gas will then be available to the world market.
      And, the jobs figures are inflated. If not, then let those jobs be guaranteed as part of the deal. If Exxon says 20,000 jobs, then fine, put it in writing, with penalties if they aren’t created.
      And I… read more »

      …am looking forward to November when the obstructionist TGOP will be tossed and America can get back to work.

      • Bill Miller says:

        Mr. Harris,

        When new sources of oil are opened the global supply is increased. Who ever uses the oil from the new supply generally will less oil from their previous supplier, leaving more oil available to all other users in the market. As such the prices of oil in the midwest will go down not up. It is straightforward economics.

  3. Tina Crouse says:

    The studies did not turn up this, did they?This is a suburb of Vancouver, Canada following the rupture of an oil pipeline in 2007. http://youtu.be/rjjhVnCfahs. Also you had your own pipeline explosion in 2007 – Enbridge pipeline explosion at Clearbrook, Minnesota.
    Don’t be fooled. Pipelines are not ‘safe’, they are an inevitable disaster waiting to happen but with an unpredictable date.

    • Fernando M says:

      Tina, the example you gave is because a backhoe dug up a pipeline. I would argue that the pipeline was minding its own business when a piece of heavy machinery punctured a hole in it. I didn’t research it any farther, but who is to say Kinder Morgan is responsible for this? If it truly was not marked as a buried pipeline, then maybe so. If not, then it’s a the construction company who is at fault.

      As for Enbridge…are you saying they’re owned by ExxonMobil? Or it’s an oil/gas industry-owned line. You’re a bit vague in your senseless accusations.

      Properly maintained pipelines are safe. If one doesn’t service it properly, the likelihood of a rupture goes up, yes. However, are you saying that we should abandon economical sources of energy that can be safely extracted? Until you start walking everywhere or riding a horse and buggy, I suggest getting off your high horse. The reality is that oil/natural gas allow many for the creation of thousands of jobs, provide economies with great benefits like modern transportation, new products, etc.

      • John Kennedy says:

        So Fernando, based on your statement that properly maintained pipeines are safe, one can make the assumption that ExxonMobil does not maintain their pipelines? Wasn’t it last year one of their pipelines crossing the Yellowstone River had a leak?

        • Chin Heng says:

          John, how many people are killed just crossing the street each year? How many people are killed in a car crash each day? The point is, no matter how much you know to cross a road or drive a well maintained car, you can still have an accident. Nothing is ever risk free – you just do what you have to in order to mitigate the risk.

  4. Mary Bawa says:

    I hope this ran as an Op-Ed in the WSJ and WP.

  5. Tom MacPherson says:

    ‘Clean’ energy alternatives will not be a significant source of energy for years.The fact remains that the US will need access to large amounts of oil for the foreseeable future. That oil can either arrive by tanker from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, or by pipeline from Canada. Both methods involve the potential for spills. The pipeline alternative promises jobs and a serious boost for the US ecomony, and a steady supply of oil from a reliable, long time friend and ally of the US.

  6. Roger Chenoweth says:

    What role is /was Keystone projected to provide in transporting new crude oil production from North Dakota? Will additional pipeline(s) be needed across Nebraska? In other words how will new domestic production in North Dakota reach refining markets?

  7. Linda Brown says:

    Yes, this was a sad and disappointing event. It is a real shame that this current administration is only concerned with getting re-elected and trying to look good for his core supporters.
    Looks like more of the same until November.
    And they just won’t quit. A new bill (H.R. 3784 – the Gas Price Spike Act of 2012) was just introduced that would impose a windfall profit tax on oil and natural gas. This one really needs to be killed.
    Looking forward to November and a Republican majority that will be more favorable to the oil and gas industry.

    • Jim Harris says:

      Yes, and it was an even bigger shame when Mitch McConnell stood up and said the sole goal of the Republican party was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. And of course, he and his cronies have demonstrated over and over again that they do not have the best interests of the country at heart…like when they vote against what polls have shown the American people clearly want, and when they ignore America’s economic problems and concentrate on social engineering.
      Looks like even more of the same until November.
      And will you please explain to me why a windfall profit tax on oil and natural gas should be killed? Oil companies are already experiencing record profits…and the prices I pay for gas at the pump are going up again, despite the fact that the US is now a net exporter of gasoline. Why exactly do we need to be more favorable to the oil and gas industry? Seems like they are doing pretty well, and they definitely don’t have our best interests at heart.
      You also forgot to mention that if Keystone is built, one result will be that gas prices to the upper midwest will rise…because that oil and gas will then be available to the world market.
      And, the jobs figures are inflated. If not, then let those jobs be guaranteed as part of the deal. If Exxon says 20,000 jobs, then fine, put it in writing, with penalties if they aren’t created.
      And I… read more »

      …am looking forward to November when the obstructionist TGOP will be tossed and America can get back to work.

      • Bill Miller says:

        Mr. Harris,

        When new sources of oil are opened the global supply is increased. Who ever uses the oil from the new supply generally will less oil from their previous supplier, leaving more oil available to all other users in the market. As such the prices of oil in the midwest will go down not up. It is straightforward economics.

  8. Tina Crouse says:

    The studies did not turn up this, did they?This is a suburb of Vancouver, Canada following the rupture of an oil pipeline in 2007. http://youtu.be/rjjhVnCfahs. Also you had your own pipeline explosion in 2007 – Enbridge pipeline explosion at Clearbrook, Minnesota.
    Don’t be fooled. Pipelines are not ‘safe’, they are an inevitable disaster waiting to happen but with an unpredictable date.

    • Fernando M says:

      Tina, the example you gave is because a backhoe dug up a pipeline. I would argue that the pipeline was minding its own business when a piece of heavy machinery punctured a hole in it. I didn’t research it any farther, but who is to say Kinder Morgan is responsible for this? If it truly was not marked as a buried pipeline, then maybe so. If not, then it’s a the construction company who is at fault.

      As for Enbridge…are you saying they’re owned by ExxonMobil? Or it’s an oil/gas industry-owned line. You’re a bit vague in your senseless accusations.

      Properly maintained pipelines are safe. If one doesn’t service it properly, the likelihood of a rupture goes up, yes. However, are you saying that we should abandon economical sources of energy that can be safely extracted? Until you start walking everywhere or riding a horse and buggy, I suggest getting off your high horse. The reality is that oil/natural gas allow many for the creation of thousands of jobs, provide economies with great benefits like modern transportation, new products, etc.

      • John Kennedy says:

        So Fernando, based on your statement that properly maintained pipeines are safe, one can make the assumption that ExxonMobil does not maintain their pipelines? Wasn’t it last year one of their pipelines crossing the Yellowstone River had a leak?

        • Chin Heng says:

          John, how many people are killed just crossing the street each year? How many people are killed in a car crash each day? The point is, no matter how much you know to cross a road or drive a well maintained car, you can still have an accident. Nothing is ever risk free – you just do what you have to in order to mitigate the risk.