On November 10, 2011, the U.S. State Department derailed the current plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the Ogallala aquifer in order to gain additional information. In particular, the Keystone XL pipeline would have crossed through the sensitive ecosystem known as the Sand Hills in Nebraska.
The Ogallala aquifer supplies water to 1.5 million people or 82% of the population and the consequences of possible spills and leaks into the aquifer was a contentious issue if the current plan had been implemented. The Keystone XL Pipeline Project Review Process: Decision to Seek Additional Information indicated that not enough investigation had been done even after the lengthy initial review. It was questioned whether the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project was really in the best national interest of the US.
An in-depth assessment of alternate routes will be explored. After assessing the aforementioned additional information, the State Department would make a decision after discussing it with eight other agencies in the Executive Order, whether the relevant issues of environmental concerns (including climate change), energy security, economic impacts, and foreign policy will make a significant impact and therefore shift the final decision either for or against the Keystone XL pipeline.
In a statement given November 10th by President Obama on the State Department’s Keystone XL Pipeline Announcement, he states that additional information is needed about the proposal to ensure and safeguard against the detrimental environmental impact to the region and the American people.
Since the public has raised some serious concerns, especially in Nebraska, questions and potential impacts must be understood before TransCanada, located in Calgary AB, can proceed. Not only will this decision postpone the building of the pipeline, but also Obama insists on creating a transparent process where further investigation into the science of the process and the voices of the American people will be taken into consideration. This is primarily what will lead to his final decision after the 2012 election.
In the article Keystone pipeline: State Department agrees to investigate charges written by Suzanne Goldenberg, a US environment correspondent for the UK’s Guardian publication, it was suggested that there was “influence peddling and conflict of interest” which affected the outcome of the report.
Politico broke the story after a memo was obtained questioning if a proper review had been conducted where the Department and other people involved strictly adhered to the federal laws and regulations of the permit process. Whether a review of the pipeline project was done correctly and thoroughly enough with respect to the National Environmental Policy Act, warrants further investigation. Regardless, this decision to delay the pipeline was a major coup for environmentalists on both sides of the border who insist that the long-term effects of the Keystone XL pipeline with its possible toxic spills, leaks, air pollution, and influences on climate change, will be detrimental to the health of people in both countries.
If Obama does not get re-elected, it is questionable what the outcome of the Keystone XL pipeline will be beyond 2012. It may not even get built at all which would please the environmentalists who fought so hard in Canada and the US to bring visibility to this issue.