State Department Delays Decision On KeystoneXL Pipeline With Full White House Support

Earlier today, the State Department announced that it would delay the KeystoneXL pipeline and study the possibility of re-routing it.

Reuters, via Huffington Post:

The United States will study a new route for the Keystone XL Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, U.S. officials said on Thursday, delaying any final approval beyond the 2012 election and sparing President Barack Obama a politically risky decision for now.

The delay was a victory for environmentalists who say oil sands crude development emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. It would deal a blow to companies developing Alberta's oil sands and to TransCanada Corp, which planned to build and operate the conduit.

Analysts have said a long delay could kill the $7 billion project because it would cause shippers and refiners to look for alternative routes to get Canadian oil sands crude.

It was not immediately clear what effect the decision -- which sources briefed on the matter said would delay any final approval for the $7 billion project by at least a year -- would have on U.S.-Canada relations.

The White House issued a statement backing the State Department's decision:

I support the State Department's announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood. The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people. At the same time, my administration will build on the unprecedented progress we’ve made towards strengthening our nation’s energy security, from responsibly expanding domestic oil and gas production to nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, to continued progress in the development of a clean energy economy.

Usually I hate it when media outlets point out that a decision like this is "politically risky." But this is one that had no good political outcome, though there is certainly a clear environmental outcome. By delaying the pipeline, Republicans are now free to taunt the President for his "job-killing" lack of leadership, which of course, they are doing.

LA Times:

House Speaker John Boehner blasted the delay, contending Obama was simply trying to appease environmental groups that had sparked an outcry over the project.

“More than 20,000 new American jobs have just been sacrificed in the name of political expediency,” Boehner said. “By punting on this project, the president has made clear that campaign politics are driving U.S. policy decisions--at the expense of American jobs. The current project has already been deemed environmentally sound, and calling for a new route is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to avoid upsetting the president’s political base before the election.”

Of course, Boehner knows nothing of pandering to his base, right? He does it over and over again with head held high. But heaven forbid the President would make a decision to at least delay and re-examine this pipeline with an eye to environmental concerns and yes, his base.

After all, when you have a protest the size of the one in the video at the top, it's probably a good idea to pay attention to it, election year or no election year. Besides, there's the added benefit of having the Koch brothers sidelined. They stood to gain much from this pipeline. That's always a political decision that will be popular with the base.

Boehner's cries and howls are largely ridiculous anyway, given that the unemployment logjam is a direct result of public sector job losses, not private sector losses.

Score one for the environment, zero for the Kochs, and I give the administration props for listening to the base.


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