Last year, President Obama halted the U.S. Department of State’s 90-day review of the Keystone XL project, citing the importance of giving the Nebraska Court the time to issue a ruling. Earlier today, the Nebraska Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision, and in doing so, ruled that the Governor of Nebraska has the authority to approve the pipeline’s route. Now that the Nebraska Court is settled, the State Department’s review process can resume and is expected to take two-to-three weeks to complete. Almost as if to underscore that it is way past time to approve the Keystone XL, the U.S. House of Representatives voted soon after the Nebraska ruling to approve the pipeline 266-153. The Senate is expected to take up an identical bill in the coming weeks.
The Keystone XL project has been subjected to five federal reviews and dozens of public meetings since TransCanada first applied for a permit in 2008. The State Department Environmental Impact Statements consistently find that the pipeline itself would have little to no impact on Canadian oil sands production rates or on global oil consumption. Canada will continue to develop Alberta’s oil sands and the resulting oil will continue to be transported to American refineries on the Gulf Coast. Today’s decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court removes the last of President Obama’s excuses for inaction.
Without the Keystone XL, more oil will travel to the Gulf via rail and truck, and according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, both of these transport options are significantly more risky than pipeline transport – both in terms of potential spills and leakage and in lives lost. And while pipelines are generally considered the safest way to transport oil, TransCanada voluntarily agreed to fifty-seven additional safety measures and invested $1.4 billion in pipeline safety and management programs in response to the Environmental Impact Statement the State Department issued in 2013.
The State Department also notes that the Keystone XL does have job creation potential and that the pipeline’s construction would inject $3.4 billion into the U.S. economy.
It has been almost seven years since a presidential permit was requested for the Keystone XL Pipeline and it is time for the president to make a decision. The facts are clear: 60 percent of Americans support final approval of the Keystone XL project; the pipeline will have minimal, if any, impact on the environment; and the Nebraska Supreme Court has issued a ruling permitting the governor to approve the pipeline’s route. The president should seize this opportunity to demonstrate he is not bound by partisan politics and that he has the best interests of the nation and the American people at heart.
Karla Jones is the director of the American Legislative Exchange Council Task Force on International Relations and Federalism.