The four-year saga of the Keystone XL pipeline is a textbook case of the game Washington politicians play. To avoid making decisions that might anger one constituency or another, they appoint a committee or commission a study and then sit back, hoping the report never comes in. If they don’t like the results, they commission another study.
The application to permit construction on the Keystone pipeline was filed in September 2008. Since then, four reports have been produced on the potential environmental impact of the pipeline—each coming in with essentially the same conclusion. Earlier this month, the US Department of State issued a 2,000-page draft reporton the potential environmental impact of the pipeline. As Business Week concluded: “Overall, the report does not raise any huge environmental red flags.” Yet, the Obama Administration has blocked construction of the 875 mile segment of the pipeline which would carry crude oil produced from Canada’s oil sands to US refineries in the Gulf Coast.
Despite the widespread public approvalfor the pipeline and the report’s conclusionthat “other options to get the oil from Canada to US Gulf Coast refineries are worse for climate change,” the State Department made no recommendation for or against the project moving ahead. Instead, Kerri-Ann Jones, State’s assistant secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, told reporters, “We’re looking for feedback now from the public to help us shape this going forward” and “We’re very anxious to have a lot of public comment.” Interestingly, the government has already received millions of comments on the pipeline.
It is a complicated matter.