Thursday, January 24, 2013

Keystone XL Decision Will Test President's Climate Change Pledge

Jan 23: Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Hoeven (R-ND), Max Baucus (D-MT.) and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to approve the Keystone XL pipeline following Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's approval of the route through Nebraska Tuesday [See WIMS 1/22/13]. In one day's time, the letter gained 53 signatures, a majority of the U.S. Senate. Senators in addition to Murkowski, Hoeven and Baucus who attended the news conference included, Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), David Vitter (R-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). The full text of the letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. President:

"Nebraska recently approved a new Keystone XL Pipeline route. Four and a half years after TransCanada first applied for a Presidential Permit, and a year since you denied their original request, the project still awaits your approval. Nebraska has now addressed the outstanding concerns you raised when you denied the permit, and we therefore urge you to finish expeditiously the review process and approve the pipeline. Specifically, the new pipeline route in Nebraska avoids the Sand Hills, which you cited as a concern in your denial. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality determined the pipeline would have minimal environmental impact and would generate significant economic benefits in the state of Nebraska. This is on top of the thousands of good-paying union jobs and millions of dollars in economic development for our country as a whole, none of which cost any taxpayer money. The pipeline is also a major step toward American energy security. Canada plans to develop this oil resource and the only question is whether we receive the oil from our friend and ally or whether Canada is forced to look for new partners in Asia because we turned them away.

"On March 22, 2012, you directed federal agencies to accelerate approval of vital energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline.  We strongly urge you to direct the State Department to accelerate the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and quickly complete the National Interest Determination. 

"This should be able to be done quickly since your administration has previously made a National Interest Determination on the same key factors relevant to Keystone XL.  In 2009, with respect to the Alberta Clipper Pipeline, the State Department 'found that the addition of crude oil pipeline capacity between Canada and the United States will advance a number of strategic interests of the United States. These included increasing the diversity of available supplies among the United States' worldwide crude oil sources in a time of considerable political tension in other major oil producing countries and regions; shortening the transportation pathway for crude oil supplies; and increasing crude oil supplies from a major non-Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries producer. Canada is a stable and reliable ally and trading partner of the United States, with which we have free trade agreements which augment the security of this energy supply.'

"The factors supporting the National Interest Determination in 2009 are just as relevant today.  Some constituencies have called on you to deny the pipeline and the jobs and energy security associated with it.  Because the pipeline has gone through the most exhaustive environmental scrutiny of any pipeline in the history of this country, and you already determined that oil from Canada is in the national interest, there is no reason to deny or further delay this long-studied project.  

"We ask you not to move the goalposts as opponents of this project have pressed you to do. We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security.  It is vital for the country that you promptly finalize the SEIS and the National Interest Determination and approve the pipeline.     "The State Department has said that it would issue the final SEIS before the end of the first quarter of 2013.  After four and a half years of study, we urge you to stick to your deadlines.  The American people need a timely decision on the Presidential Permit.

"Thank you for your consideration."

    Last November, Baucus and Hoeven organized a bipartisan letter signed by 18 senators, nine Republicans and nine Democrats, calling on the president to approve the Keystone XL project once Nebraska's concerns were addressed. They also asked to meet with the president to discuss the project, but to date they are still awaiting a response from the White House.

    On the House side, Energy and Commerce Committee Republican leaders pledged continued action in support of the Keystone XL pipeline following Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's approval of the proposed reroute of the pipeline through the Cornhusker state. Now that the Nebraska process is complete, the next step is for the president to approve the Presidential Permit. Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) issued a statement following the governor's announcement saying:

    "Today marks another milestone on the long and tumultuous road toward the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Nebraska has now given its stamp of approval of the landmark infrastructure project, which should alleviate the president's concerns over the proposed route. The pipeline route has been thoroughly studied and found to be environmentally sound. Keystone XL will help create thousands of American jobs and put us on a path toward North American energy independence. This pipeline is clearly in our national interest and it is critical for our economy and our national security that it be approved immediately. We will continue to fight tooth and nail for this pipeline and the jobs it will create and will pursue additional legislation to ensure it is approved and built to completion."

    Additionally, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued a release calling on President Obama to immediately approve the project. He said, "Nebraska's approval of a new Keystone XL pipeline route means there is no bureaucratic excuse, hurdle, or catch President Obama can use to delay this project any further. He and he alone stands in the way of tens of thousands of new jobs and energy security. Every state along the proposed route supports this project, as does a bipartisan coalition in Congress and a majority of Americans. I recognize all the political pressure the president faces, but with our energy security at stake and many jobs in limbo, he should find a way to say yes."

    The Nebraska approval, combined with the growing Congressional political pressure is setting the stage for a highly controversial decision by the President and his Administration -- particularly in light of the President's Inaugural commitment to address the issue of climate change [See WIMS 1/22/13].

    On February 17, President's Day weekend,, the Sierra Club and the Hip-Hop Caucus are organizing a demonstration at The National Mall, Washington, DC to protest the further development of the Keystone XL pipeline [See WIMS 1/15/13]. In anticipation of the demonstration, the Sierra Club Board of Directors has approved the one-time use of civil disobedience for the first time in the organization's 120-year history.

    On January 7, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and nearly 70 other national and regional organizations released a letter thanking President Obama for repeatedly raising the threat of climate change and highlighted specific actions he can take after his second inauguration to expand clean energy and curb pollution that is altering our climate. Among the specific actions recommended by the group to address climate change concerns they said, "the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest because it would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we can't afford to burn, extend our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, endanger health and safety, and put critical water resources at risk." [See WIMS 1/8/13].

    On January 17, a release from NRDC indicated that scientists and advocates had unveiled new research from Oil Change International showing that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would damage the climate much more than previously thought, by dramatically expanding tar sands production and because it will lead to increased combustion of a particularly dirty form of oil -- petroleum coke -- known as petcoke [See WIMS 1/17/13]. They said, "The petcoke produced from the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would fuel 5 coal plants and produce 16.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, thus emitting 13% more carbon dioxide than the U.S. State Department has previously considered."

    According to TransCanada, the Keystone XL project developer, the proposed oil pipeline will transport oil from Hardisty, Alberta and Baker, Montana before reaching delivery terminals in Steele City, Nebraska. Keystone XL is estimated to cost about US$5.3 billion to build and will support the creation of 9,000 jobs on the American portion of the pipeline and about 2,200 on the Canadian side. The projected in-service date for Keystone XL is late 2014 or early 2015, subject to approval of the company's Presidential Permit application.

    Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman pointed out in a letter to the President that, "Construction of Keystone XL will result in $418.1 million in economic benefits and support up to 4,560 new or existing jobs in Nebraska. The project will generate $16.5 million in taxes from pipeline construction materials and is expected to yield up to $13 million in local property tax revenues in its first full year of valuation. Normal operation of the pipeline is expected to have no effect on ground or surface water quality or use along the pipeline route in Nebraska. In the unlikely event of a spill from the pipeline, impacts on water resources would be localized and would not impact the Ogallala Aquifer as a whole."

    Access a release from Sen. Murkowski and the letter (click here). Access a release from Sen. Hoeven including the letter and a list of signers (click here). Access the statement from House E&C Republicans (click here). Access a release from Speaker Boehner (click here). Access the release from Sierra Club and link to further details (click here). Access a release from NRDC and link to the complete letter with a list of signers and related NRDC blog postings (click here). Access a lengthy release from NRDC with links to related information (click here). Access the Oil Change International report (click here). Access an announcement from the Nebraska Governor and link to the letter to President Obama (click here). Access a release from TransCanada and link to the Presidential permit application and related information (click here). Access numerous WIMS blog postings on KXL (click here). [#Energy/KXL, #Energy/Pipeline, #Climate]


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