Keystone Kops: Will Obama Administration EVER Make a Decision on Major Job-Creation, Energy-Security Project?

October 26, 2011

#WeCantWait

On July 26, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill to require President Barack Obama to make a final decision on the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. It may seem unusual for Congress to have to publicly vote on a bill that simply asks the president to do his job; unfortunately, such action is warranted as the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline continues to languish and workers continue to wait for the Obama administration to make a decision.

What is the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Keystone XL is a proposed extension of an existing pipeline. The Keystone XL project would carry an estimated 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to U.S. refineries - roughly doubling the current capacity to 1.4 million barrels per day. A Department of Energy analysis projects that the increased energy supplies and gains in energy efficiency could "essentially eliminate" U.S. dependence on Middle East oil.

Because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canada border, a Presidential Permit is required after consideration by the U.S. State Department. An application was submitted to the State Department in September 2008, and it has been awaiting final action ever since. In August, the State Department issued its final Environmental Impact Statement on the project, saying the pipeline will have limited adverse environmental impacts during construction and operation.

When will the Keystone XL Pipeline be Approved?

The Obama administration declared its opposition to H.R. 1938, the North American-Made Energy Security Act (the bipartisan bill approved by the House urging a final decision), saying "The bill is unnecessary because the Department of State has been working diligently to complete the permit decision process for the Keystone XL pipeline and has publicly committed to reaching a decision before December 31, 2011."

However, a recent Reuters report casts doubt on this pledge: "The State Department may miss a year-end target to approve TransCanada Corp's Canada-to-Texas Keystone oil sands pipeline, a U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday, risking a further delay to the most important new crude oil conduit in decades.

"The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the State Department still hoped to make a decision by the end of this year, which has been its target, but that its highest priority was to carry out a thorough, rigorous review. The decision has already been pushed back once.

"A further delay would not only be a blow to TransCanada, it could also prolong a massive gap between U.S. and global oil prices because oil traders are counting on Keystone's 700,000 barrel-per-day capacity to relieve a build-up of crude in the Midwest, which doesn't have enough pipelines to ship growing Canadian output to Gulf Coast refineries for use around the United States."

Why We Can't Wait: What Will Keystone XL Mean for Jobs?

President Obama has been road-testing a new campaign slogan, saying "we can't wait" for action on legislation to promote job creation. Republicans agree, which is why the Obama administration's delay of the Keystone XL pipeline project is so baffling. Consider the following statement issued just last week by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers:

""˜We welcome the opportunity to work in cooperation with TransCanada to provide the skilled workforce needed on this vital project,' said IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill. "˜At a time when jobs are the top global priority, the Keystone XL project will put thousands back to work and have ripple benefits throughout the North American economy. Our members look forward to being part of this historic project and pledge to deliver the highest quality work into make it a success.'

"Within days of receiving regulatory approval from the U.S. Department of State, the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline would create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. during the construction phase. This includes welders, pipefitters, heavy equipment operators, engineers and many other trades. Investing billions in the economy would also lead to the creation of 118,000 spin-off jobs as local businesses benefit from workers staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and TransCanada buying equipment and supplies."

It's time for the Obama administration to make a decision. #WeCantWait any longer.

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