Keystone XL Pipeline Might Still Happen Despite Obama Opposition

A bipartisan group of senators is attempting an end run to achieve approval on the stalled Keystone XL pipeline. The bill, introduced on March 14, would invoke powers held by Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to leapfrog both the president and the State Department to approve the construction of the pipeline. Given that Nebraska recently dropped its opposition to the proposed route and that the bill has bipartisan support, it seems as if tar sands will be flowing through the Midwest in the near future.

The latest State Department report on the project proclaims it benign in terms of environmental threats. Compiled under contract by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the report analyzed the impact that construction and operation of the pipeline would have on soils, groundwater resources, climate change, and endangered species along the proposed route. It was found that construction of the pipeline would create only minimal permanent disturbances to the environment and that major spills would have only "localized effects" on ground water and other resources. However, there have been a number of accusations that ERM is in the pocket of the oil industry and that the findings of the report are skewed to heavily favor those interests.

Of course, the bipartisan group of senators who have sponsored the bill each have something to gain from it. The pipeline will pass through most of their states, allowing them to claim responsibility for the jobs created when the pipeline comes to town. The pipeline may also help to move oil produced as a result of the shale oil boom in North Dakota and Montana, bringing additional revenues into those states. And in an unsurprising turn, given the modus operandi of the American political system, each co-sponsoring senator has received campaign money from the oil and gas industry.

Senator Hoeven, the main Republican backing the bill, seems confident that it will achieve veto-proof passage. He sees the drop in opposition from Nebraska as key. The jobs argument is strong, with estimates of 5,000–20,000 positions created in the construction phase. In a predictable reversal, though, this number dwindles to an estimate of 127 once the pipeline moves into operation. With the broad economy still struggling, 20,000 jobs, even temporary ones, is seen as an opportunity not to be passed up in a Congress whose approval ratings are still smarting from sequestration and budget battles.

Whatever the true environmental and economic impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline, the decision on whether or not it will be built may soon be in the hands of Congress. Undoubtedly both houses will be pushing hard for passage of the bill so that they can make the claim that the benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline were bought through their efforts in spite of the protestations of the president.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Nate Abrams

I'm a systems guy, which means that I look at almost everything in terms of interconnections, feedback loops, architecture and scale. In other words, I look for the big picture and the deeply buried reasons for why things are the way they are.

MORE FROM

New White House communications director Scaramucci says press briefings should be on-camera

If the new White House communications director gets his way, the press briefings could soon be recorded once again.

At least 8 dead, 30 injured in locked tractor trailer outside Walmart in Texas

Authorities told press that the deaths were caused by "a human trafficking crime."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

New White House communications director Scaramucci says press briefings should be on-camera

If the new White House communications director gets his way, the press briefings could soon be recorded once again.

At least 8 dead, 30 injured in locked tractor trailer outside Walmart in Texas

Authorities told press that the deaths were caused by "a human trafficking crime."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.