Responding to a mandate laid down by conservatives in Congress last month for a decision within 60 days, the Obama administration denied the permit for construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
The proposed route for the 1700-mile pipeline would stretch from Canada to Texas, crossing through sensitive areas including Nebraska's ecologically sensitive Sandhills region and the vast Ogallala Aquifer that supplies fresh water to millions of Americans.
The Obama administration had originally said it would postpone a decision on the project to 2013, after the presidential election later this year, but Republicans in Congress attempted to force Obama's hand by moving the deadline to within 60 days, and that the president responded well ahead of that deadline.
While environmentalists applaud the decision to block the pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands oil, the production of which produces more carbon emissions and environmental destruction than “conventional” oil, many are concerned that the Obama administration will eventually approve the project in some form.
“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline,” Obama said in a statement, “but pertains more to the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.”
Republicans in Congress vow that the fight for the tar sands pipeline is “far from over” and Keystone's TransCanada has said it will immediately apply for a new permit to build the pipeline.
Job claims inflated
The official State Department report to Congress released yesterday also characterized claims that the pipeline would create 100,000 jobs as “inflated,” saying instead that the project would have no “significant impact on long-term employment in the United States.”
The report says that instead that the project would only create between 5,000 to 6,000 temporary jobs lasting only two years.
Undermining U.S. energy security
A report released by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) says that heated debate over the project has obscured the true intent of the pipeline: to export Canadian oil to the world market via the U.S. Gulf Coast.
"Canada isn't even producing enough oil to fill its existing pipelines," says the NRDC, "which are running half-empty."
The real reason for the big push to build the pipeline across America's heartland is not to enhance U.S. energy security, but to grow oil company profits by exporting oil to international markets through Gulf Coast refineries in tax-free Foreign Trade Zones.
One thing conservatives in Congress and environmentalists do agree on is that the Keystone pipeline story is far from over. Today's rejection of TransCanada's permit by the State Department is just as much a rejection of acting on the GOP's attempt to mandate a timeline than of the idea itself.
“I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil,” Obama said in his statement.
So while today those that voiced their concerns and made clear their opposition can celebrate a "victory", bringing to heel what many considered a "done deal," the fight for America's sustainable energy future is far from over. The Keystone XL pipeline is but one small battle, and only temporarily won.
Image credit: National Geographic