Keystone Pipeline is NOT a case of Trump vs. Obama

The Wall Street Journal headline for today is:

President Donald Trump took steps Tuesday to revive two controversial oil pipeline projects that had been rejected by the Obama administration, moves that likely represent the leading edge of a sweeping overhaul of his predecessor’s environmental agenda. http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-take-action-on-keystone-dakota-pipelines-1485270333

This is another case of the media taking the opportunity, on a dull, unwitting readership, to create a false dilemma. In the spirit of Noam, I have complied by “clippings”, to let the story tell itself.  Here are the main things I discovered:

  1. The Keystone Pipeline already exists – it begins in Steele City, Nebraska.  This bill concerns the “extension” to the pipeline.
  2. The “rejection” of the Keystone Pipeline was in no way part of Obama’s environmental agenda.
  3. Obama approved a portion of the Keystone Pipeline.
  4. The Obama Administration approved other pipelines, namely the Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail pipelines.

The point is accuracy in reporting. Obama was categorically NOT opposed to the Keystone Pipeline, in principal.  In fact, he supported it. He “rejected” the Keystone Extension project.  But even this rejection must be qualified.  Read on.

In March 2012, Obama endorsed the building of the southern segment (Gulf Coast Extension or Phase III) that begins in Cushing, Oklahoma. The President said in Cushing, Oklahoma, on March 22, “Today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.” (“Remarks of the President” (Press release). The White House. 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2013-03-04.)

This is from the New York Times, 2012

RIPLEY, Okla. — President Obama stood in a red-dirt field before acres of stacked pipeline pieces on Thursday to illustrate his support for expedited construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XLoil pipeline. But his public declaration for the project pleased neither the industry and its Republican allies nor environmentalists.

That was clear hours later when several people interrupted his next speech, shouting “Stop the pipeline!” at Ohio State University, where Mr. Obama emphasized clean-fuel alternatives in his “all of the above” energy agenda. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/us/politics/in-oklahoma-obama-declares-pipeline-support.html)

I remember being surprised by this; but I also recall Obama’s logic, in an interview I heard.  He said that we are already transporting the oil – so the question is not whether we should or should not transport the oil. The problem is that we use the oil,regardless. His point was that alternatives, including truck or rail,would have a greater impact on the environment. This made sense to me. However, it also reveals the true issue, which, as usual, points to the true, hidden criminal: the American People: don’t demand the oil, and you won’t have this controversy.

Here is the history of the Obama Administration’s “rejection” (taken from Wikipedia: http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-take-action-on-keystone-dakota-pipelines-1485270333)

  1. On November 30, 2011, a group of Republican senators introduced legislation aimed at forcing the Obama administration to make a decision within 60 days.[51] In December 2011, Congress passed a bill giving the Obama Administration a 60-day deadline to make a decision on the application to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.[47][52] In January 2012, Obama rejected the application stating that the deadline for the decision had “prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact”.
  2. In March 2012, Obama endorsed the building of the southern segment (Gulf Coast Extension or Phase III) that begins in Cushing, Oklahoma. The President said in Cushing, Oklahoma, on March 22, “Today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”[55]
  3. In its supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) released in March 2013, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs described changes to the original proposals including the shortening of the pipeline to 875 miles (1,408 km); its avoidance of “crossing the NDEQ-identified Sandhills Region” and “reduction of the length of pipeline crossing the Northern High Plains Aquifer system, which includes the Ogallala formation”; and stated “there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed Project route.”[2]   Note: this is the Obama State Department (i.e, a part of the Obama Administration).
  4. On January 22, 2014 the Gulf Coast Extension (phase III) – approved by President Obama – was opened.[12]
  5. On April 18, 2014, the Obama administration announced that the review of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline has been extended indefinitely, pending the result of a legal challenge to a Nebraska pipeline siting law that could change the route.
  6. A bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline was passed by the Senate (62–36) on January 29, 2015,[64] and by the House (270–152) on February 11, 2015.[65] President Obama vetoed the bill on February 24, 2015, arguing that the decision of approval should rest with the Executive Branch.[66]
  7. On 6 November 2015, the project of Keystone XL was rejected by the Obama administration after more than six years of review and initial approval by the Obama State Department.

It should be clear that the Obama administration was never against the Keystone Pipeline; nor did they have some environmental agenda, which was always used to defy the extension proposal.  It’s just not evident from any statement or actions on the port of Obama.  Note his reasons for veto above:

  • the deadline for the initial bill would preclude adequate research (the Obama State Department later did the research, and gave the green light).
  • the decision should rest with the Executive Branch (not the US Congress, duly elected by the People). Heard that before.

It was all summed up in Obama’s final words on the issue:

In his speech announcing the rejection of the pipeline on November 6, 2015, President Obama lamented the symbolic importance Keystone XL had taken on, stating, “for years, the Keystone pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse. It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter. And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.”[76]

 

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