Keystone Clock Keeps Ticking Past 1900 Days

December 2, 2013

In Pursuit of "All-of-the-Above" Energy Policy, Congress Must Act to Clear Away Roadblocks to Building the Architecture of Abundance 

The Keystone clock has now eclipsed 1900 days as the Obama administration continues to delay a decision on the landmark infrastructure project that would create thousands of jobs and strengthen America’s energy security. After over five years since the first application was submitted, the Keystone XL pipeline continues to languish in regulatory review.

Despite the administration's claims to support an "all-of-the-above" energy policy, its actions to endlessly delay the project suggest otherwise. Keystone XL is already the most studied pipeline in the nation’s history, and the longer the administration drags out the Keystone process, the longer the delays. The next step on the administration’s interminable schedule is for the State Department to release its final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the proposed route, which will be the fifth environmental report on the project. The department released its draft supplemental EIS in March, confirming the project would be safe and have limited environmental impacts. Now, nine months later, we are still waiting for the final report. For the pipeline’s original permit, it took the State Department just over four months to release its final environmental impact statement after the previous draft was complete.

But even after the State Department issues its long-awaited report, we can likely expect more delays and more excuses. National Journal reports the “saga still has several more chapters.” The only way to finally close the book on Keystone’s review, which now encompasses over 15,500 pages, is for Congress to act. The House did its part earlier this year, passing Rep. Lee Terry’s Northern Route Approval Act in May, which would clear away all remaining roadblocks and allow construction of the job-creating project to move forward. Similar legislation was necessary forty years ago to achieve construction of the game-changing Trans-Alaska Pipeline after facing many of the same challenges as Keystone XL.

The Keystone experience has revealed that moving forward, legislation will be needed to fix the permitting process that has turned too political and plagued with uncertainty. Keystone XL is emblematic of a larger problem we now have in getting cross-border energy projects approved. Energy and Commerce committee leaders wrote to President Obama this summer, “What was once a standard, apolitical process for approving pipelined with an allied friend and neighbor in Canada … has now become an embarrassment.” Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) have introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that it will never again take five years to build a pipeline. The North American Energy Infrastructure Act creates a clear regulatory approval process for U.S. cross-border oil pipelines, natural gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines, replacing the current system set forth in a series of Executive Orders.

Both the Northern Route Approval Act and the North American Energy Infrastructure Act are important components of the architecture of abundance needed to realize North America’s full energy and economic potential. With 1900 days and counting on the Keystone clock, the need for regulatory certainty is greater than ever.