Southern Leg of Keystone Open for Business While Northern Leg Still Stuck in Review

January 22, 2014

While full construction of the Keystone XL pipeline continues to be blocked by red tape in Washington, the southern leg of the pipeline began pumping oil today. This interstate portion of the project, known as the Gulf Coast Project, was actually endorsed by President Obama in March of 2012, but his claims to support an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy have fallen short. After 1951 days of review, the president has still not signed off on Keystone’s northern section. The southern segment is now open for business only because it does not cross an international border, and therefore did not require approval from the president. But the Presidential Permit needed to complete the pipeline still remains out of reach. Instead of taking action to speed up approval of the project, which will open access to nearly a million barrels of Canadian crude oil per day, the administration continues to add more delays.

According to TransCanada, construction of the Gulf Coast Project provided $2.3 billion of private-sector investment and resulted in more than 11 million hours of labor completed by approximately 5,000 American workers. By approving the northern segment, the president could create thousands of more jobs and billions more in investment. With a simple stroke of his pen, the president could greenlight construction on this final  — and most important — portion of the pipeline.

The Presidential Permit for Keystone XL should have been granted years ago, but the process for approving cross-border energy projects has spiraled out of control and become tainted with politics. The Keystone XL review now spans over five years and over 15,000 pages. And despite public and bipartisan support for the project, new reports suggest that some administration officials have been working closely with environmental advocacy groups to derail Keystone.

To bypass the administration’s needless delays and overcome the political turmoil, the House has now voted seven times to allow construction of the northern route to move forward. But action is also needed to ensure the tortuous review process of Keystone XL does not set a precedent for future transnational energy projects. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) have introduced bipartisan legislation to reform the permitting process and remove the need for future Presidential Permits. The North American Energy Infrastructure Act will bring the process for approving cross-border projects more in step with the process for approving interstate pipelines, like the southern leg of Keystone.

Beyond just Keystone XL, the U.S. will need to build dozens more cross-border pipelines and transmission lines to harness our newfound energy abundance, but we will never build the architecture of abundance necessary to fulfill our energy potential if it takes over five years to review a single project. Speaking on his bill, Chairman Upton previously stated, “We need to wring political interference out of the energy permitting process and look to the future.”