Eventually, President Barack Obama is going to have to make some sort of decision about the Keystone XL pipeline project. So far he’s managed to put off signing the presidential permit needed to move the project forward – and it looks like he has a little more time still.
But within the next couple of months, the U.S. State Department will complete its review of the environmental impact statement, and all signs point to an official recommendation to approve the pipeline. Obama should be ready to add his support for this important addition to the nation’s energy infrastructure.
Last Friday, the U.S. Senate made its position clear with a 62-37 vote in favor of the project. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., co-authored the nonbinding budget amendment in an attempt to send a strong message about the proposed pipeline’s significance. The Senate vote reflects widespread support for the project, including in Montana, notwithstanding a good deal of vocal opposition from opponents, including in Montana.
Some famous names have joined the movement to convince Obama to reject the permit application. Many environmentalists are concerned about potential oil spills. Some of them argue that the pipeline would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions. And, of course, in his recent State of the Union address, Obama all but ordered Congress to slow climate change by addressing greenhouse gas emissions.
However, it’s a good bet that the majority of Montanans are in favor of the project. Certainly Montana’s entire congressional delegation is on board. They understand that the pipeline project will create thousands of new, good-paying jobs and prefer that the U.S. get its oil from its close neighbor and ally, Canada. They note that TransCanada has agreed to a strict set of conditions designed to avoid any environmental damage. Besides, the State Department has concluded that the project carries no significant risk of environmental harm – or of an increased rate of greenhouse gas emissions, given that development of Canada’s tar sands is expected to happen with or without the new pipeline.
But if it is approved, the Keystone XL pipeline extension would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Port of Morgan on the Montana-Canadian border, through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to connect to an existing pipeline in Steel City, Neb., and eventually reach the Gulf Coast. This portion of the pipeline would cover nearly 900 miles and cost more than $3 billion.
TransCanada first forwarded the pipeline proposal in 2008; received Canadian approval just two years later. The U.S. portion of the project, meanwhile, is still under debate. Montana and South Dakota have both granted their approval; Nebraska recently signed on as well after TransCanada agreed to route the pipeline around environmentally sensitive areas.
On March 1, the State Department released its supplemental EIS. It is now conducting the 45-day public comment portion of this laborious and time-consuming process. Once this chapter of the Keystone XL pipeline saga has ended, Obama should finally close the book on it. He should go ahead and sign the permit.
EDITORIAL BOARD: Publisher Jim McGowan, Editor Sherry Devlin, Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen