Keystone's Long Road
The Keystone XL pipeline has come to symbolize the contrast in energy policy between this administration and the GOP Congress. The Obama administration continues to block this landmark jobs and energy project, putting thousands of jobs and greater American energy security on hold and at risk. With President Obama's rejection of the pipeline's permit, Canada is now looking for new buyers for their rich energy supplies with an eye toward China. Meanwhile, Republicans - and many congressional Democrats as well, bucking the president - have continued to support the project and sought every available opportunity to advance its construction. The latest such opportunity is coming this week.
Legislation introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) to remove the president's authority over the pipeline will be included in House Republicans' transportation extension package as it moves to the House floor this week. Enactment of the measure will finally put an end to the president's delay tactics and create a path forward for this important energy infrastructure project.
The timeline below provides an overview of major actions related to the pipeline's agonizing approval process, which has now lasted over three and a half years.
September 19, 2008 - TransCanada submits an application to the U.S. Department of State to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, an extension of the existing Keystone pipeline.
2009 - Department of State conducts 20 scoping meetings in communities along the pipeline route and consults with federal and state agencies and Indian tribes.
April 16, 2010 - Department of State issues its Draft Environmental Impact Statement. It opens a 45-day comment period, which it later extends.
Summer 2010 - Department of State hosts 21 public comment meetings in communities along the pipeline route. When the public comment period is extended, additional meetings are held. Nearly 1,800 verbal and written comments are received.
October 15, 2010 - Speaking to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is asked about approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and she says, "we are inclined to do so."
October 25, 2010 - The General Presidents of four international unions representing a total of 2.6 million workers send a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the Department of State to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project.
December 7, 2010 - Department of State hosts a government-to-government meeting for Indian tribes and other consulting parties.
January 2011 - TransCanada agrees to adopt 57 project-specific special conditions for design, construction, and operations of the Keystone XL pipeline. The conditions are developed by the Department of State and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; according to the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, these conditions would give the Keystone XL pipeline "a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline," making it a truly state-of-the-art pipeline.
April 15, 2011 - Department of State issues a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement and opens another 45-day comment period. More than 280,000 comments are received.
July 25, 2011 - The Obama administration issues a Statement of Administration Policy calling legislation related to the Keystone XL pipeline unnecessary saying, "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."
July 26, 2011 - U.S. House of Representatives approves H.R. 1938, the North American-Made Energy Security Act. The bill, authored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), requires a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline by November 1, 2011. The bill is approved with a strong bipartisan vote of 279-147.
August 26, 2011 - Department of State issues its Final Environmental Impact Statement and opens up a 90-day review period. The agency continues accepting public comments.
Fall 2011 - Department of State hosts public meetings in states along the pipeline route.
November 10, 2011 - President Obama announces that no decision on the Keystone XL pipeline will be made until after the 2012 election. A decision is expected in early 2013, after the administration identifies a new route for the pipeline.
November 10, 2011 - The president's decision is widely attributed to political pressure exerted by environmentalist groups opposed to the pipeline. A statement from Terry O'Sullivan, General President of the Laborers' International Union of North America, sums up the response: "Environmentalists formed a circle around the White House and within days the Obama Administration chose to inflict a potentially fatal delay to a project that is not just a pipeline, but is a lifeline for thousands of desperate working men and women. The Administration chose to support environmentalists over jobs - job-killers win, American workers lose."
December 23, 2011 - Both the House and Senate unanimously approve - and President Obama signs into law - a bill requiring approval of the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days unless the president determines the project does not serve the national interest.
January 18, 2012 - After over three years of review, President Obama formally rejects the pipeline's Presidential Permit and asks TransCanada to reapply.
February 7, 2012 - The Energy and Commerce Committee approves H.R. 3548, the North American Energy Access Act. The bill, authored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), removes the president's authority over the pipeline's permit and gives it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
February 16, 2012 - U.S. House of Representatives approves the PIONEERS Act with language from Rep. Terry's bill requiring swift approval of the pipeline.
March 8, 2012 - President Obama personally lobbies the Senate to kill an amendment calling for congressional approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. In spite of the president's efforts, 11 Senate Democrats joined all voting Republicans in favor of the project.
March 22, 2012 - On a visit to Cushing, Oklahoma, President Obama takes undue credit for the southern leg of the pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf Coast, ignoring the fact that he rejected the only Keystone permit that requires his approval because it crosses our national boundary with Canada.