Monday, November 09, 2015

226.1 - Good News: Keystone XL on life support

Good News: Keystone XL on life support

Updated Starting with some good news, but which may be good news for a different reason than you think.

It's about the Keystone XL pipeline. I've talked about this a number of times before; Keystone XL is the pipeline that would drag tar sands, which are about the dirtiest, most polluting, most climate-damaging way to get oil there is, across the US plains states to refineries in Texas. And just as a reminder of what we are talking about, that picture on the right is not a close-up of some oil streak, that is an aerial view of a tar sands field in Alberta, Canada.

The project has been held up by opposition from everyone from environmentalists to farmers and Native Americans along the proposed route and has been subjected to various reviews, including a major one by the State Department - which is involved because the project crosses and international boundary.

Well, on November 2, Trans-Canada, the outfit that wants to build the pipeline, asked the State Department to halt indefinitely its ongoing review of the project.

Now, initially, that might sound like good news, like when Shell decided to not drill for oil in the Arctic "for the foreseeable future." That is, like the company was in effect throwing in the towel.

And it is good news, but not for that reason. The company is not giving up, they are making a strategic move. Because, you see, the reason the company gave for asking for a delay is is to await a decision by regulators in Nebraska about a possible change to the pipeline's route in that state. But that decision isn't expected for seven months to a year, which would likely push a final decision to after the 2016 elections. All the GOPper presidential candidates say they are for the Keystone XL; all the Democrats say they are against it. (Hillary Clinton came to that place rather late in the game, but she got there and that's what counts right now.) In other words, Trans-Canada is trying to engage in a stall to put things off until - they hope - a GOPper is in the White House.

So why is that good news? Because it means the company calculates that the Obama White House is going to reject the plan.

I've said on a few occasions that I think that Obama is leaning toward rejecting the project - he has expressed skepticism about it - but is too worried about possibly "offending" right-wingers, particularly right-wing Democrats in the plains states where the pipeline would run. Apparently, Trans-Canada thinks the same thing about the Amazing Mr Os preferences.

There are reasons to think we both have it right. For important one, the White House responded by saying the request to withdraw the permit was "unusual" and that it intends to continue with the review with the idea that Obama would make a final decision before the end of his term.

All of which means that the Keystone XL pipeline is on life support. It's not dead - and even if it's rejected, Trans-Canada could still start the permitting application process all over again under whatever new administration takes office in January of 2017 - but even given all that, it is still on life support. And that truly is good news.

Updated with the news that the day after the show was done, the White House did reject the project, just as predicted. More next week.

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