OPINION: Rep. Fred Upton in Investor's Business Daily: Keystone XL Benefits Too Great To Allow More Delays

March 18, 2013

 

Keystone XL Benefits Too Great To Allow More Delays
March 18, 2013

When it comes to producing jobs, economic growth, energy security and more affordable gasoline prices for struggling Americans, the pending Keystone XL pipeline project includes some history worth repeating.

TransCanada, a Canadian energy company, has proposed the Keystone XL pipeline expansion to carry nearly a million additional barrels of oil from Alberta to U.S. refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. The pipeline would create thousands of direct and indirect jobs and give Americans access to long-term, safe North American energy supplies.

Keystone XL could play a role in moderating high gas prices by increasing the supply of crude oil. Millions of hardworking Americans are feeling pain at the pump and we should do everything we can to expand access to stable and affordable energy supplies.

The project is more than safe. It has been the subject of extensive environmental reviews, all of which demonstrate it will follow strict safeguards to protect the public interest. This month the State Department confirmed in its exhaustive Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the pipeline would have negligible environmental impact.

For these reasons, the project enjoys broad public support.

Despite these demonstrable benefits, the Obama administration has held up approval for four years with unfair, bureaucratic delays. Instead of approving this massive jobs and energy affordability project, the president has manufactured his own assembly line of excuses, intended more to build capital with environmental special interests than produce economic growth and lower energy prices for those who feel the squeeze of lower take-home pay.

Historical Lessons

Keystone's slow walk is reminiscent of another major energy infrastructure project plagued by politics and bureaucratic delays.

Over 40 years ago, a major discovery of oil in the North Slope of Alaska at Prudhoe Bay — the largest on the continent before development of the more recent oil discoveries in Alberta — required construction of a pipeline. The project became known as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, or TAPS. Like Keystone, it was thoroughly studied for years, and all the environmental and safety concerns were exhaustively addressed.

Nevertheless, it was still subjected to a host of challenges from outside groups and multiple rounds of costly litigation delays.

It eventually took an act of Congress and President Nixon's signature to break the logjam. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, passed in 1973, in effect ended the paralysis-by-analysis, allowing construction on the project to start the next year.

The TAPS public interest benefits started to flow immediately. It not only contributed to Alaska's economy and created secondary jobs in other states, but it also provided considerably more oil (16 billion barrels to date) than the project's critics predicted.

Despite the shrill voices of its detractors, TAPS has amassed an excellent environmental and safety record, and it did so using technology far less sophisticated than what will be required of Keystone.

Political Hyperbole

As it turns out, arguments used against TAPS turned out to be more grounded in political hyperbole than reason . The same pattern is unfolding with the Keystone project.

As with TAPS, Keystone XL's opponents have used the time bought by environmental delays to prepare even more legal challenges. For example, one environmental organization is alleging the pipeline would harm a beetle species and thus may violate the Endangered Species Act of 1973, another federal statute often misused to harm working Americans and hinder economic activity.

Absent congressional action, the delays could continue indefinitely, harming ordinary Americans by denying them jobs and affordable energy. It's not fair to let extreme environmental interest groups hurt hard-working Americans through these ideological crusades. If these same groups applied their tactics in the past, America would not have been able to construct other major job-creating infrastructure projects like the interstate highway system or the Golden Gate Bridge.

That's why I was pleased to help co-author legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. We will move this commonsense legislation through the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the full House in the weeks ahead.

Keystone is regulatory deja vu. Many of the arguments used against it are just a rehash of stale, anti-consumer, anti-jobs rhetoric we heard 40 years ago. TAPS resulted in major benefits to all Americans, especially the most vulnerable who need jobs and affordable energy.

Keystone XL will do the same. We need to pass the legislation to build the pipeline and the president should approve it. It's a piece of energy history worth repeating.

To read the full article online, click HERE.

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