Editor's Log: Keystone Two-Step Continues

March 2013, Vol. 68 No. 3

I’ve been asked by many people if the main section of the Keystone XL Pipeline, from Canada to Oklahoma, will be built now that a revised route has been approved both by the state of Nebraska and TransCanada. The new route reportedly will avoid the most ecologically sensitive regions of Nebraska.

Short answer: It’s complicated.

Because the pipeline route crosses an international border, its approval immediately became less about feasibility and more about political gain. While President Obama’s publically stated reason for delaying the pipeline was largely resolved when Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, with the support of the state legislature, formally approved the new, negotiated route, in reality the decision matrix is much more complicated.

The action by Nebraska sets the stage for to an eventual decision by Obama which has emerged as a crucial test of the president’s pledges to tackle climate change versus his embrace of “all of the above” energy.

It all comes down to a case of political expediency rather than practicality. Questions abound such as: can President Obama further delay approval of Keystone by appeasing his union supporters with other measures and thus, keep the environmental lobby firmly in his corner? Or will an overwhelming need for new jobs and business development force him to approve the pipeline?

The decision by Nebraska to approve the new Keystone XL route sent shockwaves through the anti-Keystone troops. One of their leaders lamented publically that “President Obama is our only hope now.”

Yet a major labor union – and one of Obama’s essential allies in his successful quest for a second term -- continues to push the administration for approval of Keystone. In late January, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) called on President Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline and put Americans back to work.

“This will be the safest pipeline ever built and its route has been revised to reflect environmental concerns,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said. “Further delay is unnecessary. For men and women desperate for work, Keystone XL is not just a pipeline – it’s a lifeline. There is no rationale for further delay.”