Friday, May 4, 2012

Keystone XL Pipeline Politics

Trans Canada is expected to file a new application for the rerouted cross-border segment of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands bitumen pipeline today, May 4. The filing will reignite the election year political rhetoric surrounding environmental permitting and construction of the huge project. The southern leg of the new pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas, is already in the 45 day Corps of Engineers permit process. If the Corps does not deny the permit within the 45 day period, it will be automatically granted. The northern segment, from Hardisty, Alberta to Cushing, requires a permit from the State Department because it crosses the international border between the U.S. and Canada.

Trans Canada’s proposed new route across Nebraska dodges what that state has defined as the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region, but environmentalists say that Nebraska bureaucrats have defined the Sandhills too narrowly, and also complain that the new route will still carry the thick crude over parts of the Ogallala aquifer, which provides drinking and irrigation water to an eight state region, including parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

Over a quarter of all irrigated farmland in the United States is served by the Ogallala. Eighty two percent of the folks living above the Ogallala get their drinking water from it. Those key facts, plus the general environmental opposition to Canadian tar sands mining as a contributor to global warming, form the basis of opposition to the pipeline. However, election year campaign rhetoric is more likely than scientific fact to determine the outcome of the permitting process.

House Speaker John Boehner has issued yet another statement on Keystone XL, proclaiming that, “With Nebraska now on board and the application being re-filed, the president has lost his always flimsy excuse for blocking this job creating project. With energy security at stake and jobs on the line, he should listen to the American people, not just his political base, and approve it immediately.” Environmental opponents to the project are equally adamant. Bold Nebraska Executive Director Jane Kleeb responds, “The fundamental facts remain; Americans are being asked to put clean water at risk for an extreme form of energy that will add nothing to our energy security.”

At least the environmentalists don’t deny that building the project would create jobs.

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