The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 5, 2013

Our View: Obama should approve Keystone


The Free Press

— The Obama administration should act soon to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project now that Nebraska has signed off on environmental concerns and developing sources of domestic and North American energy remain a top priority.

Obama declined to approve the project about one year ago, citing concerns about unresolved environmental issues in Nebraska. The pipeline would carry bitumen crude from Alberta, Canada, to Midwest and southern state refineries and have a capacity of up to 590,000 barrels a day.

The company re-routed the pipeline to address Nebraska's concerns about it running near the sensitive Sand Hills area. Gov. Dave Heineman has approved a review by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. A bipartisan group of 53 senators -- including 8 Democrats -- have sent Obama a letter asking him to now approve the project.

An in-depth environmental study has been completed. The pipeline builder, TransCanada, has complied with all environmental study requirements. TransCanada would have to buy $200 million of insurance to pay for any potential spill. The project is like many other pipelines criss-crossing the country -- a low risk venture.

The Obama administration and the State Department have final say because the project crosses international boundaries. The administration -- after crossing the t's on its own environmental review -- needs to make a determination that the project is in the national interest.

Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., wrote in their letter to the president that the administration has determined a similar pipeline that goes from Canada through Wisconsin had already been approved as one in the national interest four years ago.

While critics doubt an estimate of 20,000 jobs created by the project, it's clear there will be significant job creation and economic development with a $7 billion investment in the longest pipeline in the U.S. Another economic study showed the crude from Canada would be shipped to China instead if the pipeline to Texas refineries was not approved.

Politics seem to be delaying this project more than any perceived environmental threat. Environmentalists see it as another policy that will add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, a direction they believe counter to other efforts to reduce global warming.

They may have some influence on Obama who doesn't stand for re-election and new Secretary of State John Kerry, considered a strong environmentalist.

But politics shouldn't drive this policy.

The U.S. needs to diversify its source of crude oil and buying from a friendly country will be a way to make us more energy independent. Many experts say stopping one pipeline will hardly make a dent in the global warming equation and that encouraging conservation -- like raising U.S. vehicle mileage standards -- will go much farther. Obama has already started down that path.

If the Obama administration delays the Keystone pipeline again, or needlessly drags its feet, it will be fighting an uphill battle on the politics and public opinion. It will be rejecting its own stated policy of a balanced and sound energy policy using domestic sources and conservation.

This battle could needlessly take up time and political capital of a second term, and it will look like Obama is "moving the goalposts" as the senators write in their letter.

It's time for Obama and his State Department to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.