Keystone XL pipeline: More delays, more uncertainty
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:
- CNN, "Oil, money and politics; EPA snags Keystone XL pipeline"
- MarketWatch, "EPA objections to Keystone may force Obama to weigh in"
- The National Post (Canada), "EPA slams State Department’s Keystone XL pipeline review"
- The Globe and Mail (Canada), "Keystone criticism misplaced, TransCanada CEO insists," an interview with CEO Russ Girling before the EPA letter was issued.
- SayAnythingBlog.com (North Dakota), "Hoeven: Obama moving the goal posts on Keystone pipeline." Sen. Hoeven (R-ND) notes pipeline would also carry oil from North Dakota's Bakken formation, easing traffic on roads and railroads.
- House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals Resources hearing, Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3, "To approve the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline, and for other purposes. "Northern Route Approval Act"