Since the Alberta oil sands are already being developed and the oil is going to be produced, the environmental arguments about carbon dioxide emissions are a deflection. Pipelines can be built just as easily -- more easily, it now appears -- to British Columbia to export the oil to energy-hungry China.
The EPA also waves the red flag about possible pipeline spills, an objection that could be raised against pipeline project. As TransCanada reported when it applied for a second presidential permit in May 2012:
TransCanada maintains its commitment to build Keystone XL as safely and reliably as possible. To that end, the company will adopt and comply with 57 special conditions developed by the U.S. federal pipeline regulator PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) that provide an even greater confidence in the operation and monitoring of the pipeline, including: a higher number of remotely controlled shut-off valves, increased pipeline inspections and pipe that is buried deeper in the ground. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project issued in August 2011 concluded the incorporation of the 57 special conditions 'would result in a project that would have a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current code."
One could easily conclude that the EPA will never be satisfied. There will always be another reason to delay, in the process thwarting a construction project that would require 9,000 skilled workers. (One also suspects bureaucratic turf protection by the EPA: How dare the State Department get involved in environmental regulation! That's our gig!)
News coverage and commentary:
Motion to proceed to consideration of S. 744, #immigration bill, passes Senate by 84-15. Getting right into amendments.
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