White House Vows to 'Expedite' New Pipeline Proposal

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Common Dreams

White House Vows to 'Expedite' New Pipeline Proposal

by
Common Dreams staff

A man holds a sign at a rally in front of the Lamar County courthouse where landowner Julia Trigg Crawford is set to go to court in a battle with TransCanada over the trenching of her private property for the Keystone pipeline in Paris, Texas February 17, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

A proposal by Canadian oil firm TransCanada to seek new approval for segments of its Keystone XL pipeline project was greeted warmly by the Obama White House today. In a letter sent to the US State Department, the company said it would seek a 'Presidential Permit application (cross border permit) in the near future for the Keystone XL Project from the U.S./Canada border in Montana to Steele City, Nebraska.  TransCanada would supplement that application with an alternative route in Nebraska as soon as that route is selected.'

In effect, TransCanada is using a divide-and-conquer method by splitting up the original Keystone route in two. The lower half of the pipeline would now start in Oklahoma and travel to Texas, but because it does not cross an international border it would not require the special cross-border permit. The northern half would still need federal approval, but TransCanada would begin building the lower half even without it. The company would apply separately to the various federal and state permits for the southern portion of the pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to the company's letter by saying, "We look forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that it is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner, and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary Federal permits."

The Hill reports:

The administration said Obama's decision last month to reject the permit was made because of a 60-day, GOP-backed deadline included in a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.

TransCanada said it expects the new application for the cross-border permit to be dealt with quickly.

"The over three year environmental review for Keystone XL completed last summer was the most comprehensive process ever for a cross border pipeline," TransCanada President Russ Girling said in a statement. "Based on that work, we would expect our cross border permit should be processed expeditiously and a decision made once a new route in Nebraska is determined."

TransCanada said Monday that it would continue working with Nebraska officials to identify an alternative route for Keystone around the state's ecologically sensitive Sand Hill's region. The Obama administration had delayed a final decision on the project until 2013 in order to identify and analyze the alternative route. But the 60-day deadline forced the administration to weigh in on the project sooner.

Groups that have worked hard to prevent these pipelines, however, were not pleased with the developments.

"Any attempt to move forward with any segment of the pipeline will be met with the same fierce grassroots opposition that stopped the pipeline the first time. We know that Big Oil will stop at nothing to further its profits, but it can't hide the dirty reality that importing more tar sands oil through our heartland endangers our land, water and climate." -- Kim Huynh, FOE

Kim Huynh, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth, had the following statement in response:

TransCanada is grasping at straws. The permit for the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline was rejected. Desperate to placate shareholders, TransCanada is trying to dodge a robust environmental review process. No matter how TransCanada tries to slice and dice it, the Keystone XL pipeline would be an environmental disaster.

The administration must stop trying to have it both ways. President Obama cannot expect to protect the climate and to put the country on a path toward 21st-century clean energy while simultaneously shilling for one of the dirtiest industries on Earth. What the administration seems to be missing is that the southern segment of this pipeline would exacerbate air pollution in refinery communities along the Gulf Coast and threaten our heartland with costly spills — all for oil that likely won't make it to Americans' gas tanks.

Any attempt to move forward with any segment of the pipeline will be met with the same fierce grassroots opposition that stopped the pipeline the first time. We know that Big Oil will stop at nothing to further its profits, but it can't hide the dirty reality that importing more tar sands oil through our heartland endangers our land, water and climate.

And 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who has led protests against Keystone XL, focused on the impact of farmers and landowners along the southern section of the proposed pipeline, with this response to the news:

Transcanada's decision to build its pipe from Oklahoma to Texas is a nifty excuse to steal some land by eminent domain. It doesn't increase tar sands mining because there's still no pipe across the Canadian border, but it's the usual ugly power grab and land grab by the fossil fuel industry -- we'll do what we can to stand by our allies in that arid and beautiful land.

NRDC's Susan Casey-Lefkowitz called TransCanada's plan "a ploy" designed to "avoid a review that will show how the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will raise U.S. oil prices, send tar sands overseas, endanger U.S. homes and waters, and contribute to worsening climate change." And continued:

What part of “no” does TransCanada not understand? Texans, Nebraskans, and folks all across the country are saying that whether in a hundred pieces or one piece, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in the national interest.  [...]

TransCanada is clearly trying to circumvent the process that we have in place for approving international pipelines by now going around the presidential permit national interest determination requirement for the part of this pipeline that will hurt the U.S. economy. Whether in pieces or as a whole, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in the national interest.

NRDC provided this video clip of a recent protest of Texas landowners in reaction to TransCanada’s bullying and the threats that the tar sands pipeline would pose to homes and waters.

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