Yesterday, April 18, 2014, the Obama administration through the U.S. State Department, announced it would delay a decision on whether to permit the Keystone XL pipeline to be built in the United States. The delay is expected to last until after the November, 2014 election, providing cover for Democrats over the controversial pipeline. In its statement, the department said, "The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents."
The pipeline is expected to provide an initial 9,000 jobs directly associated with the building of the pipeline with approximately another 31,000 indirect jobs across the country. The jobs would be mostly union affiliated jobs in the oil industry and would be comprised of mostly Americans.
The controversy comes in with a large number of Democratic Party and President Obama supporters wanting the Keystone pipeline's permit to be denied. Powerful 'left wing' lobbying groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have come out against building the pipeline and there have been approximately 2.5 million public comments officially submitted on the pipeline. If the Obama administration can wait until after the November, 2014 general election to make a decision, then many Democrats will not have the issue weighing them down in the voting booth to be re-elected. The balance of the U.S. Senate could tilt toward the Republican Party, so Democrats are working to retain their majority.
Billionaire and strong Democratic supporter Tom Seyer has also voiced his opposition to Keystone XL pipeline as well. Seyer has held fundraisers at his home which have included the attendance by President Obama. Seyer has committed approximately $100 million of his own money to a super PAC with the intent to keep the pipeline from being built, while also publicly stating he will work to unseat Louisiana U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu for her support of the pipeline. The builders of the Keystone XL pipeline have been involved in somewhat of a tussle over the facts this past year and doubt they will be invited to Seyer's for any dinner parties.
But not all Democrats are happy about the delay. Louisiana is one of the states set to benefit from the pipeline and one of it's U.S. Senators, Democrat Mary Landrieu stated yesterday, "This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable," she said. "By making it clear that they will not move the process forward until there is a resolution in a lawsuit in Nebraska, the administration is sending a signal that the small minority who oppose the pipeline can tie up the process in court forever. There are 42,000 jobs, $20 billion in economic activity and North America's energy security at stake."
Russ Girling, TransCanada’s President and Chief Executive Officer said yesterday of the delay, "We are extremely disappointed and frustrated with yet another delay. American men and women will miss out on another construction season where they could have worked to build Keystone XL and provided for their families. We feel for them. We are also disappointed the United States will continue to rely on regimes that are fundamentally opposed to American values for the eight to nine million barrels of oil that is imported every day. A stable, secure supply of oil from Canada and from the U.S. makes better sense and I am sure a majority of Americans agree."
Another area of controversy over the pipeline is related to the environment. Some find the pipeline would adversely affect the environment, however that is not likely the case. Transporting via rail or truck would be more detrimental to the environment. It has been proven that pipelines are the safest and most efficient method to move crude oil. The U.S. State Department also found that the Keystone XL pipeline would likely operate safer than the current 2.6 million miles of oil and natural gas pipelines that currently exist in the United States.
The takeaway from all this seems to be more political than economic or environmental, which many would argue is precisely what is wrong with politics today. There is a state Supreme Court case in Nebraska pending which could decide the ultimate path of the pipeline.