Last Updated:November 26 @ 05:35 pm

Keystone XL pipeline awaits Obama's decision

By Josh Lederman

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Embarking on a second term, President Barack Obama faces mounting pressure on a decision he had put off during his re-election campaign: whether to approve the $7 billion proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline between the U.S. and Canada.

On its surface, it's a choice between the promise of jobs and economic growth and environmental concerns. But it's also become a proxy for a much broader fight over American energy consumption and climate change, amplified by Superstorm Sandy and the conclusion of an election that was all about the economy.

Environmental activists and oil producers alike are looking to Obama's decision as a harbinger of what he'll do on climate and energy in the next four years. Both sides are holding out hope that, freed from the political constraints of re-election, the president will side with them on this and countless related issues down the road.

"The broader climate movement is absolutely looking at this administration's Keystone XL decision as a really significant decision to signal that dirty fuels are not acceptable in the U.S.," said Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Once content with delays that have so far kept the pipeline from moving forward at full speed, opponents of Keystone XL have launched protests in recent weeks at the White House and in Texas urging Obama to nix the project outright. Meanwhile, support for the pipeline appears to be picking up steam on Capitol Hill.

But Obama has shown little urgency about the pipeline, which would carry crude oil about 1,700 miles from western Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline requires State Department approval because it crosses an international boundary.

The pipeline became an issue in the campaign, and Obama put it on hold while a plan was worked out to avoid routing it through Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region. TransCanada, the company applying to build it, revised the route, but that caused the lengthy environmental review process to start over. In the meantime, the company split the project into two parts, starting construction in August on a southern segment between Oklahoma and Texas even as it waits for approval for the northern segment that crosses the Canadian border.

Although the lower leg didn't require Obama's sign-off, he gave it his blessing in March anyway, irking environmental activists who see the pipeline as a slap to efforts to reduce oil consumption and fend off climate change.

"At a time when we are desperately trying to bend the emissions curve downwards, it is wrong to open up a new source of energy that is more carbon intensive and makes the problem worse," wrote former Vice President Al Gore, now a climate activist, in an email.

Still, in an otherwise highly polarized political climate, access to affordable energy has become a rare issue with bipartisan appeal.

"It's just a no-brainer," Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., told The Associated Press. "Canada is going to export this oil. It's either going to come to the U.S. or it's going to go to Russia or China. Even Democrats that aren't really excited about oil and gas development generally can figure that out."

Many Democrats from states whose economies depend on oil, like Landrieu, support the pipeline. So do some trade unions, whose workers stand to gain thousands of new construction jobs. And while environmentalists make up an important part of their base, Democratic lawmakers are under intense pressure to create jobs and reduce American reliance on Mideast oil.

There's less variation among Republicans, who by and large support the project. But in Texas, a deep red state that normally embraces the oil industry, the project has drawn intense opposition from landowners who argue their property along the pipeline's route is being unfairly condemned. Their complaints, along with those from Texans who oppose an influx of foreign oil from Canadian tar sands, have fostered an unlikely alliance with local environmentalists, who have taken to chaining themselves to machinery and trucks in an attempt to stall construction.

The messy politics may demonstrate why Obama punted the decision until after the election. Now both sides are applying pressure with renewed vigor.

A group of Keystone XL opponents, organized by climate activist Bill McKibben, marched on the White House in November, hoping to call attention to an issue that got barely a mention during the presidential campaign. Days earlier, a group of senators - nine Democrats and nine Republicans - sent Obama a letter urging him to stop stalling.

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican who helped organize the letter, said there's been no response from the White House, which declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the ratings agency Moody's says it expects Obama will eventually approve the pipeline, but it won't be quick. Take too long to approve the permitting, Moody's warned in a November report, and Obama risks missing the boom in oil prices that instigated the pipeline in the first place.

Estimates for how many jobs the pipeline would create range from a few thousand up to 20,000 or more. At 36 inches in diameter, the pipeline will have an initial capacity of 700,000 barrels a day. That's significant, because demand for oil and gas pipelines is expected to surge over the next four years, according to a November report by The Freedonia Group, a market research firm.

A TransCanada spokesman said the company expects a decision by the State Department, which is tasked with determining whether the pipeline is in the national interest, in the first quarter of 2013, and hopes to start construction on the upper portion shortly thereafter. The longer the decision drags on, the less realistic that timeline appears to be.

Officials in Nebraska are close to completing their own study of the revised route, with a public hearing planned for Dec. 4 ahead of a final decision by Gov. Dave Heineman.


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  1. brightlightComment by brightlight
    December 1, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    What makes anyone think he was ever going to approve XL.No, he will wait until completion is near then reject it to satisfy his supporters, dividing the country further and creating deeper caos for the nations energy concerns.
    His record shows if it is good for the country it’s not in his play book.
    He lies to and deceives his own supporters and they just love it.
    Big taxes coming to low and middle income earners for Obama care. Has he or the media told them NO.
    Benghazi should have been aggressivly resolved by now if he was honest as Commander and Chief, but no , the waters are muddier than ever as he attempts to elevate those involved for falling on the sword in defence of a failed foreign policy.
    Wait till next year to talk about budget cuts? Don’t even consider it.Make him do it now cliff or no cliff.He is a master deceiver and his slight of hand of blaming republicans for covering for the rich is nonsence,they are willing to talk.It’s not the republicans for the rich it is Barack Obama personaly against the rich.There seems to be almost a physcotic fixation on the rich that never existed before. There have always been the rich but now he’s made it a point to create a problem where there was none before.This personal vendetta is acheiving his desired effect of divide and conquer while at the same time in the middle of all the financial mess he is to go on a $4 million vacation to Hawaii. He seems to love the rich life while condemning it at the same time.Like a dictator he doesn’t seem to care if people notice or not.He’s the president and your not.
    His recent budget proposal produced laughter it was so bad.The house speaker stopped just short at the end of his staement from using the word insane to describe the white house proposal.
    Everything he touches produces a negative effect on the country, so, don’t hold your breath. He could have handled this last year but felt the need to continually campaign and vacation for the entire year on our dime and accomplishing NOTHING,WHILE LIVING OFF EVERYONE ELSE.Yes he is a wonderful example.If he can do it so can you.

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  2. grantjr67Comment by grantjr67
    December 1, 2012 @ 9:37 am

    I’m hoping it is not approved. No company, let alone a foreign one, should be allowed to use eminent domain to take land from our citizens.

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    • brightlightComment by brightlight
      December 1, 2012 @ 10:42 am

      I agree. Any one whose land could be used for the pipeline crossing should be more than amply paid. This is both a public and private deal.
      Additionally,The United States of America should be quaranteed below market pricing, for any quantity, in perpetuity, for the oil traversing the country through the pipeline for the good of the nation.
      To date we have only been hearing about oil supply, which is really not quarenteed for our use, but is subject to open market supply and demand for both foreign and domestic markets.We have been engaged in this “good of the country” rhetoric since the idea of a pipeline was first proposed, yet no direct financial benefit to the citizens of this country has been outlined.The owners of this oil, once refined in the US have said they will ship this oil only to locations that will benefit them to meet WORLD demand.
      Our lawmakers should be held accountable for making sure that america is well served while providing land and resources for the project which spans the country.Corporate profits are fine as long as there is financial recognition for the contributions of ameria’s citizens involved in it’s constrution. And I don’t mean a few union contracts to satisfy
      a minor regional labor situation just to get good press.

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  3. omakleinComment by omaklein
    December 1, 2012 @ 10:17 am

    All he has to do is drag his feet as usual. The oil will go to China.

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    • middlegroundComment by middleground
      December 1, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

      You are absolutely correct. A massive new area of oil and gas production requires a pipelines or pipelines to move the product to where we still have refineries, The Obama action forced the oil to go to Canadian refineries and then on to China. Some say the reason for Obama’s actions was a reward to Warren Buffet’s and his railroad interests, but whatever the reasons, it was not in the nation’s best interests. Heating oil, gas, electricity and every other product produced in this country will cost more because of the Obama administration’s policies against the use of our nation’s abundant fossil fuels, which are in reality natures solar panels as plants convert sunshine into chemical energy and store it as fossil fuels.

      Incidentally, one energy expert is predicting $9.00/gal gas by 2016 based on the collapsing value of the dollar and the Obama energy policies. As often said the price of ignorance is very high and no one in this country will escape the Obama-Bernanke-Geitner-designed inflation and the lessening value of the dollar.

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    • burningmanComment by burningman
      December 1, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

      They put in a large gas pipeline near where I live a few years ago. Now, unless you know what to look for, you would never know it was there. It’s all underground like most of these pipelines.

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  4. gad7Comment by gad7
    December 1, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    He is who he is and is trying to take us down and seems to be succeeding. How can you rule with sealed records. Why does congress fund him … the house can cut the funds for anything. ???

    When you have some time to listen … Have a blessed day.

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  5. cfhardersonComment by cfharderson
    December 1, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

    Why does this pipeline have to be built all of the way to TEXAS ?

    With respect to all of the jobs created, during the construction of the pipeline, there will be some transient jobs created that parallel the construction. However, after the pipeline is completed, all that will be required is a minimum maintenance staff. This would be at most a hundred jobs. The good paying, long term jobs are at the refinery!

    A state of the art refinery needs to be constructed in the upper mid-west US – North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska or Iowa. It would be energy efficient and environmentally friendly. NO NEW REFINERY has been built in Texas for over 30 years. The Texas refineries are NOT ENERGY efficient and HAVE A RECORD OF ACCIDENTS AND SPILLS. These refineries in Texas are subject to the severe hurricane weather of the Gulf of Mexico.

    If these refined products are close to Gulf port, they are too easily put on board a tanker and shipped to India or China. If they are refined in the middle of the US, they are more easily used here in the United States !

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    • burningmanComment by burningman
      December 1, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

      Where are most of the big oil refineries in the US located? Houston. Where do most oil imports come into the US? Houston.

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    • greyhairComment by greyhair
      December 1, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

      Yes we do need more and newer refineries in the US especially in the states where the oil is being extracted. Ask the EPA and other government agencys why?
      Can’t be from lack of workers ready and willing to go where the jobs are for decent pay.
      Ask the people in western North Dakota, people will come for good pay.

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  6. teamsbillComment by teamsbill
    December 1, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

    He is what he is and its not for the country it is all about him and his socialists way of thinking

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  7. greyhairComment by greyhair
    December 1, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    The main objection to the pipeline going through Nebraska wasn’t the Sandhills it was and in my mind still is the possibility of contaminating the giant aquifer that runs from the Dakotas to Texas. It is tapped into by individuals and communities who depend on it in a large part for their water supply.
    Contaminate it and it may never again be of any use to humans or their animals or for crops.
    I have seen it called the Dakota Aquifer and I know it as the Ogalala Aquifer. (Spelled wrong maybe)
    Someone said that they couldn’t understand why it couldn’t be routed through Minnesota south or eastern North Dakota.

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  8. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    December 1, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

    If Obama does approve the pipeline… I’ll be needing smelling salts!

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