Committee Report Draws Parallels Between Keystone XL Pipeline and Trans-Alaska Pipeline

March 5, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee today released a policy paper entitled “A History Worth Repeating: The Alaska Pipeline and Its Lessons for Keystone XL,” comparing the challenges of building the Keystone XL pipeline to the debate over the Trans-Alaska pipeline four decades ago. The Keystone XL pipeline is facing similar obstacles today as the Alaska Pipeline faced in the early 1970s, which ultimately required congressional action to overcome. The history of the Alaska Pipeline provides valuable lessons for lawmakers as they seek to end the needless delays on Keystone XL and move forward with the landmark jobs and energy project.

The Alaska Pipeline has been a widely successful project, delivering over 16 billion barrels of oil to the American market to date, supporting hundreds of jobs across the country, and strengthening our national security. But despite these benefits, the project faced an uphill battle in its construction much like Keystone XL today. The Alaska pipeline was bogged down in years of bureaucratic delays, including duplicative environmental reviews and multiple rounds of litigation stemming from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). To overcome these delays, Congress passed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act in 1973, which cleared away the roadblocks and approved the project. The striking parallels between the Alaska Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline suggests that congressional action may once again be necessary to cut through the red tape and build the pipeline.

According to the committee’s report, “Keystone XL is in much the same position today as the Alaska Pipeline in 1973. Once again, federal red tape is blocking a project likely to reduce oil imports from unfriendly countries – a study conducted for the Department of Energy concluded that Keystone XL has ‘the potential to very substantially reduce U.S. dependence on non-Canadian foreign oil, including from the Middle East.’ Once again, the delays are impeding middle class job creation – approximately 20,000 direct and over 100,000 indirect jobs, according to a study conducted for TransCanada. And, once again, the environmental rationale for the delays is undercut by the government’s own findings – the EIS for both the Alaska Pipeline and Keystone XL found that every alternative to the project (including not building the pipeline at all) carries relatively higher environmental risks.”

The report concludes, “As in 1973, it is time for Congress to end the delays and approve a pipeline project that is clearly in the national interest and that has already undergone sufficient scrutiny. And, beyond the need to approve Keystone XL, Congress should consider fundamental reforms to restore balance in the federal approval process and prevent future infrastructure projects from becoming ensnared in excessive red tape.”

“Keystone XL is the Alaska Pipeline of our time. Opposition groups launched an all-out attack against the Alaska Pipeline’s construction, locking the project in years of litigation and NEPA delays. These same groups have succeeded in staving off Keystone’s construction for over four years and these delays could continue indefinitely absent congressional action,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “The Alaska Pipeline ultimately required legislation to overcome opposition, and the nation was better for it. With an eye toward history, it is likely similar legislation will be needed to advance Keystone XL. This is not just a debate about a pipeline, but it is a debate about the future of American energy and our ability as a nation to do big things. We remain committed to seeing this pipeline is built to completion.”

To view a copy of the report, “A History Worth Repeating: The Alaska Pipeline and Its Lessons for Keystone XL,” click HERE.

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