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Clock Stops On Keystone XL Pipeline Decision (Again)

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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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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