Editor's Log: Keystone Two-Step Continues

March 2013, Vol. 68 No. 3

The Keystone XL Pipeline is still waiting on a new draft supplemental environmental impact statement from the State Department (that is environmental impact statement number four, if anybody’s counting), which will trigger a comment period and then a final environmental statement before the decision lands in Obama’s lap. That timeframe means a decision on the pipeline could be made as earlier as March 31 – but not necessarily, nor even probably.

The latest scuttlebutt suggests the Obama administration is considering using approval of the Keystone XL project as bait to gain support for his failed carbon tax/credit program. That could further delay approval of Keystone and embroil another intense political debate.

How President Obama balances all these factors and demands of his key support groups remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: Keystone XL Pipeline is a pawn in a larger war being waged by environmental groups. Their end-game target is putting an end to oil production from Canada’s oil and tar sands. Killing Keystone would be a major blow to the cost-justification for further mining of the oil sands. Yet, TransCanada – and the Canadian government – remain committed to getting that oil to market. The preferred route is Keystone XL, but other options are being explored.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a European researcher. He had a hard time understanding that open-cut could still be more economical than trenchless.

Can trenchless installation and rehabilitation methods be cheaper? Certainly. Are said methods consistently more economical? Of course not. It all depends upon technology, depths, urban vs. rural environments and a multitude of other factors that have to be considered for every job.

I do believe that on any given project today, trenchless should be rigorously evaluated and considered. But ultimately, we must let the job dynamics determine the most cost-effective and expeditious construction/rehab method that yields the best results for the client. It’s all about affordability and practicality, not inaccurate generalities.

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