Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tensions Build With Hints Of Possible Keystone Decision Delay

Oct 26: Although the State Department and Obama Administration are on record that a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project will be made by the end of the year [See WIMS 9/7/11], a Reuters news report indicates that could change. According to Reuters, an 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."
    As the decision date nears tensions between opposing parties are growing. On October 26, opponents of the project demonstrated outside of the University of Colorado, Denver Campus as the President spoke about his college loan relief plan. On October 24, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman announced that he is calling for a special session of the Nebraska Unicameral to determine if siting legislation can be crafted and passed for pipeline routing in Nebraska [See WIMS 10/25/11]. And, House Republicans reminded that in July they passed H.R. 1938, the North American-Made Energy Security Act calling for a final decision by November 1, which the Obama administration stated was "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."
   In Denver, Tom Poor Bear, Vice President of the Oglala Lakota Nation was removed from Obama's speech at the University but posted a plea urging President Obama "to respect our water, which is life -- and to respect our future generations. We ask all indigenous people to join us in our plight to oppose the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. . . Through a unified effort, we will accomplish this task. As our great leader of our ancestral days, Crazy Horse, once said: 'You cannot sell the land your people are buried on.' I believe today he would say: 'You cannot desecrate the land your people are buried on.'" As the President's speech was interrupted by protesters he stopped and said, "All right. Thank you, guys. We're looking at it right now, all right?  No decision has been made. And I know your deep concern about it. So we will address it."
    House Republicans said, "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." They cited a recent statement from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers saying, "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." They said, "It's time for the Obama administration to make a decision. We Cant Wait any longer."
    Meanwhile on October 26, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the State Department inspector general to investigate whether conflicts of interest tainted the process for reviewing a proposed crude oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. In a separate letter to President Obama, Sanders, Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Peter Welch (D-VT) and 11 other senators and congressmen cited "serious concerns" about the integrity of the review and asked the White House to withhold any decision on the project until the inspector general's investigation is completed, made public and evaluated. Other Members signing the letter included: Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Chellie Pingree (D-ME); Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Raul Grijalva (D-AZ); Hank Johnson (D-GA); Michael Honda (D-CA); Dennis Kucinich (D-OH); Tim Ryan (D-OH); and Mike Quigley (D-IL).

    According to a release from Senator Sanders, TransCanada, the company proposing the Keystone XL pipeline project, reportedly was allowed to screen private firms competing to perform an environmental impact study on the pipeline. Cardno Entrix, the politically-connected firm ultimately selected to conduct the environmental impact study, had significant financial ties to TransCanada. The lawmakers wrote to Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel saying, "Given the significant economic, environmental, and public health implications of the proposed pipeline, we believe that it is critical that the State Department conduct thorough, unbiased reviews of the project." 

    Access the Reuters report (click here). Access the release from the House Energy and Commerce Committee (click here). Access the posting from Tom Poor Bear (click here). Access a release from Senator Sanders and link to the letter (click here). Access a DOS announcement and details on the schedule of project meetings (click here). Access a fact sheet and map of the proposed pipeline (click here). Access a 27-page Executive Summary of the final EIS (click here). Access complete details and background from the DOS Keystone XL Pipeline Project website (click here). [#Energy/Pipeline, #Energy/OilSands]