Fossil Fuels

Published on April 18th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Clock Stops On Keystone XL Pipeline Decision (Again)

April 18th, 2014 by  

We’re shocked — shocked! — that the Obama Administration has just announced yet another delay in the long, torturous approval process for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. As usual, the news was dumped on a Friday (Good Friday, no less) in accordance with traditional media-dodging practice, though that won’t stop the new media from picking it to pieces over the weekend.

Keystone decision delayed

Clock (cropped) by Alan Cleaver.

Now What’s Holding Up The Works?

For those of you new to the topic, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry diluted bitumen (aka dilbit) from tar sands fields in Canada, where the increasingly notorious Koch brothers have a largish stake.

The Keystone XL  pipeline project requires State Department review because it crosses an international border. After several delays and much criticism, including a politely worded but vigorous smackdown from the EPA, the agency’s final report was ultimately issued in January.

The completion of the report is a significant milestone but there are more steps yet to come in the approval process, and the reason for today’s announcement is yet another legal case over part of the Keystone route in Nebraska.

The route was already altered previously to avoid passing through the sensitive Sandhills region, and a new state law empowered the state’s governor to approve the new route.

However, last month a Nebraska judged ruled that the new law was unconstitutional, and that decision is now under appeal.

So…that handed the Obama Administration another opportunity to delay the Keystone decision (h/t to, btw).

The State Department press release puts the blame squarely on the Nebraska legal situation for stalling things out:

Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state.

However, State is careful to note that public comments still have to be reviewed:

In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.

And, in case there was any misconception that the review process is nearing completion, State also clears that up:

The agency consultation process is not starting over. The process is ongoing, and the Department and relevant agencies are actively continuing their work in assessing the Permit application.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.

Solar Jobs Vs. Keystone XL Pipeline Jobs

State also points out that “the Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents.”

When we hear national interest we think job creation, and in that context we’re giving the Administration double points for announcing the Keystone delay today.

The Keystone announcement followed right on the heels of yesterday’s Solar Summit, during which the White House enthusiastically touted the US solar industry’s stellar record on job creation.


Specifically, the White House noted a solar job creation rate of more than 20 percent annually in recent years, topping out at an estimated 143,000 workers as of now.

In contrast, page 19 of the State Department review for the Keystone project totes up only 3,900 one-year direct pipeline jobs. Add the indirect and “induced” jobs (induced refers to an uptick in general activities such as food service and road construction) and the number climbs to 42,000.

That’s a far cry from the 200,000 jobs routinely touted by Keystone fans. According to the State Department, permanent job creation directly related to the pipeline is even more disappointing, clocking in at 35. That’s 35.

Yep, that’s 35.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Rovezaleeker

    The Enbridge pipeline #61 that runs from Alberta through northern Minnesota and Wisconsin is ramping up transfer of tar sands oil. The line will increase from current 400,000 barrels per day to over 1.2 million barrels per day. Major accident waiting to happen. This pipeline was never designed to carry this capacity but since the Keystone XL has hit snags the Koch brothers have moved to plan B.

  • JamesWimberley

    I opined some time ago that the Obama administration’s strategy on Keystone is death by a thousand bureaucratic quibbles and delays. The aim is to get the promoters to withdraw the proposal. Alternatively, Obama can veto it in late 2016 before leaving office, so it’s not a millstone for Hillary.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s what I’ve been thinking as well.

      “All of the above” leaves no one able to scream that they’ve been eliminated, but then if one carefully plays favorites you end up in the same place, eliminating the undesirables.

    • Banned by Bob

      If it’s so important, then he should have the courage to kill it. But he doesn’t. I guess he is trying to keep the Canadians as the one ally that he hasn’t developed worse diplomatic relations with during his 5 years.

      • Bob_Wallace

        “as the one ally that he hasn’t developed worse diplomatic relations with during his 5 years”

        Oh, come on. No one wants to hear lies like that.

        • Banned by Bob

          Ok, make your argument about which country we are on better terms with than 5 years ago. I look forward to hearing that.

          • Bob_Wallace

            England, France, Germany, Spain, Holland, Portugal, and the rest of Europe.

            Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and pretty much the rest of Latin America.
            Do you not remember what a mess George and Dick made of US relationships with the rest of the world?

          • Banned by Bob

            That would be the same group of Europeans who were oh so happy about the NSA spying revelations? Ms. Merkel seemed to be quite pleased that we were listening in on here cell phone. And the Brits were just tickled by the gift of an IPod loading with BO speeches for the Queen. Classy.

            And that is the same Mexico that we were running guns to via the ATF?

            Maybe Costa Rica and Panama fall into the good category, but I really don’t know why that would be the case.

            And don’t forget that Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are all thinking about nuking up now that they know Obama cants be trusted in the pinch.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, it would be that group.

            Are you oblivious to what has happened in the world? Or just interested in spreading FUD?

          • Banned by Bob

            What’s untrue about what I said?

            Feel free to refute with facts.


          • A Real Libertarian


            “The 33-nation fieldwork was coordinated by GlobeScan and completed between October 2005 and January 2006.”

          • Banned by Bob

            Started then. This was the 2013 edition.


          • A Real Libertarian



            Positive: 45%
            Negative: 34%



  • Ross

    At the end of this saga we’ll hopefully get to “no”.

  • Banned by Bob

    So for all of those cheering for a delay or cancellation, we will have you to thank for all of the rail cars moving Canadian crude through the states. Pipelines are much safer than rail and the inevitable accidents that occur will be on your hands. There’s no such think as abstaining in the real world, which is what this. President tends to do. Decisions, or the lack of them, have consequences.

    • No way

      So let’s see some regulations that prohibits oil on rail cars too then 😉 Accidents may happen but the harder and more costly the transportation is the sooner it will be replaced. Giving them an autostrada with perfect and cheap transport is no solution at all even if it would be safer.

      • JamesWimberley

        Yes. Omelettes, eggs. Stopping the wrecking of the climate disruption is really important. Like war important. Civilian casualties important.

        • No way

          The fossil fuels have started many wars. Killed so many people before, today and will do tomorrow. So reducing, stopping and limiting fossil fuels is a way to save lives. If a small portion of those lifes are transfered to another place during this transition then so be it.
          The focus should then rather be on making the delivery that they have and use safer. It’s still lives in the hands of the fossil fuel industry.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Had we had spent the (estimated) $9 billion that our recent oil wars have cost us on renewable energy we’d likely be done with the transition.

            And we wouldn’t be getting fondled while waiting to board airplanes.

          • Rick Kargaard

            Would you still be flying? Has anyone noticed that Canada is an ally and the pipeline could help make foriegn wars unneccessary.

          • Bob_Wallace

            People are going to fly. People are going to drive. People are going to use oil until we give them alternatives.

          • Rick Kargaard

            I agree, and in the mean time, oil should be moved by the safest method and sourced from the friendliest jurisdictions.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’d add in – with consideration to the amount of GHG produced.

            Now, is rail the safest way to move oil? We’d need to look at spill data and where the spills might occur.

            The Quebec train wreck was a pretty strange event. It’s only one data point.

          • Rick Kargaard

            It was only unusual in the number of people killed and the the fact that it happened in the middle of a town. Derailments are quite common and Bakken light crude is more flammable than most. It is significant in the fact that large amounts of oil being shipped by rail is relatively recent event. More accidents of this type will happen, with loss of life, if rail continues to be the only choice to get some oil to market. Those deaths can be directly attributed to a lack of pipeline capacity.
            If a pipeline was available it is not probable that oil would be exported from the U.S. to Canada. Permits would likely not have been granted.

          • Wayne Williamson

            Bob, I think your 9 billion is off by a factor of a thousand…change the billions to trillions…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thanks, fixed.

    • Ross

      From what I’ve heard the oil will be exported. The real world solution is moving aggressively to renewable technology and not building more fossil fuel infrastructure.

  • apostasyusa

    Why didn’t the Canadian voters let this pipeline go to the west, instead of South to Texas? This pipeline is not going to lower the price of gas. It’s only going to create a few permanent jobs. It will with utmost certainty leak and spill into the water supply. There are already 70+ pipelines that cross the border from Canada, many carrying the toxic tar sands.

    Why are Americans not asking why we need this pipeline?

    The truth is the only reason Republicans are so crazy about building this thing is that have totally sold out to the oil and coals industries. The Koch Brothers own huge amounts of the tar sands in Canada. You don’t think that has something to do with why the GOP is trying to shove this pipe down our throats?

    Though I’d prefer the oil sands stay where they are, rail is actually safer. There are huge problems with pipelines in that when they leak we don’t find out until someone finds the pool of oil. When rail cars leak you know almost instantly.

    Between 2002 and 2012, there were a total of 129 reported incidents of crude oil spills on U.S. railroads compared with a total of 1,849 reported pipeline incidents in the same period. On average a railroad oil spill dumps 738 gallons compared with an average pipeline spill of 10,777 gallons per spill. Total gallons spilled from rail cars was 95,256 compared with 19,926,540 gallons spilled as a result of pipeline ruptures. For every million barrels moved by rail an estimated 0.38 gallons were spilled, compared an estimated spill rate of 0.88 gallons were spilled for every million barrels moved by pipeline.

    Really, we don’t need more fossil fuels getting to market. Wake up Americans!! The Republican Party has sold their souls. They are slaves to the Saudi’s who own Fox News and puppets for the Koch industries. Neither of these groups gives a rats-a** about Americans.

    Please open your eyes Republican voters. You are becoming the tools of the rich oil barons.

    • Steve Grinwis

      Pipelines are safer than rail per volume of oil moved though. And I expect rail accidents to pick up pace, since it was only in around 2011 that the Tar Sands started seriously using rail to push oil to Texas.

    • Rick Kargaard

      What are your sources for Koch brothers ownership in Alberta? Or your sources for oil spill comparisons. Rail movement of oil has already killed 47 people in Canada from one accident. This was apparently oil from the American Bakken that did not have a pipeline to move it south.

    • A Real Libertarian

      “Why didn’t the Canadian voters let this pipeline go to the west, instead of South to Texas? “

      Because we don’t have a say in our country.

      Witness Harper having absolute power despite getting less then 40% of the vote, for instance.

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