In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama didn’t explicitly mention Keystone XL. But in calling for a bipartisan infrastructure plan, he said we should “set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.”
In one sense he’s right. We have a lot more to be concerned about than the fate of one pipeline in a nation that has thousands of them. And it will be nice to see Democrats work with Republicans on solutions that benefit all Americans. A bipartisan commitment to infrastructure projects could do just that.
If we want to see the infrastructure projects the president envisions, then the companies that will largely be responsible for financing and building them must have confidence they won’t get caught in the same Kafkaesque regulatory purgatory that has ensnared Keystone XL.
It’s been well over six years since the Keystone XL proposal was introduced. And despite the numerous reviews and clean bills-of-health it has received, there’s no indication it will get the regulatory go ahead from the Obama administration anytime soon … if at all.
That does a disservice to TransCanada, the operator attempting to build the pipeline that would connect the United States to its friend and neighbor to the north. TransCanada has jumped through numerous hoops and has done everything government regulators have asked and more.
The delays on Keystone XL also do a disservice to American consumers. This capricious regulatory process is denying them the benefits that building the pipeline would bring in terms of jobs, economic activity, and the increased supplies of oil it would bring online.
The private sector is primed to invest more than $1 trillion in energy infrastructure in the U.S. over the next decade, but that investment is threatened by delays and uncertainty. Government should not be a roadblock to private investment.
Industry has a responsibility to follow the rules and processes government regulators establish.
At the same time, regulators – and those in the executive branch – have an equal responsibility to ensure that review and permitting processes abide by our laws and proceed in a timely, transparent, and fair manner.
These ideas and their faithful execution will be crucial building blocks for improving and expanding the infrastructure we will need in the 21st century. This is how we should “set our sights higher” and this is why this policy discussion is of far greater importance to the American people “than a single oil pipeline.”