President Obama surprised no one with his Keystone XL veto last week, but the rationale he gave warrants scrutiny.
In his message to the U.S. Senate, the president wrote that the bill “conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest.”
How thorough does the White House think its consideration must be?
Since the original application for the pipeline was filed almost six-and-a-half-years ago, the project has been subjected to unprecedented scrutiny from regulators, including five environmental reviews and a report of the Inspector General of the very State Department that has yet to give a final ruling. None has found a reason not to proceed with construction.
In fact, the Obama administration itself estimates that building the pipeline would increase U.S. gross domestic product by $3.4 billion. So what, exactly, is the reason for delay in making a decision?
Consider that the original Keystone pipeline took 693 days to approve. The current Keystone XL application has languished for 2,356 days and counting.
Then there’s the Alberta Clipper pipeline, another cross-border pipeline whose comparison to Keystone XL should leave many people scratching their heads.
That pipeline took 829 days to approve. That’s about one-third as long as the Keystone XL review.
When President Obama’s State Department gave approval for Alberta Clipper in 2009, it issued this statement (highlights are mine):
The addition of crude oil pipeline capacity between Canada and the United States will advance a number of strategic interests of the United States. . … Canada is a stable and reliable ally and trading partner of the United States, with which we have free trade agreements which augment the security of this energy supply.
Approval of the permit sends a positive economic signal, in a difficult economic period, about the future reliability and availability of a portion of United States’ energy imports, and in the immediate term, this shovel-ready project will provide construction jobs for workers in the United States.
At no point over the last six-and-a-half years has the White House even hinted why Keystone XL is different from the Alberta Clipper.
The same arguments that prevailed for Alberta Clipper in 2009 apply even more to Keystone XL today. A review that takes more than three times what was required for a similar pipeline doesn’t suggest thoroughness, it suggests delay.