Keystone XL construction long overdue

By Michael James Barton

The decade-long fight over Keystone XL, a 1,179-mile underground oil pipeline that would carry crude from Canada to Nebraska, just took another surprising turn.

In June, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction and allowed the long-delayed construction project to move forward. But environmentalists quickly threw up new frivolous roadblocks.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had previously approved the project — but lawyers from the Sierra Club and allied groups petitioned a federal judge to rescind those approvals, alleging that the Corps failed to conduct adequate environmental reviews.

These bad faith delaying tactics have gone on for too many years. As numerous analyses have shown, the pipeline would create jobs, boost the economy, and strengthen our national security — all without damaging the environment.

Once it’s completed, Keystone XL could transport 35 million gallons of Canadian crude oil to American refineries each day. The pipeline would traverse Montana and South Dakota before ending in Nebraska, where the oil would flow into an existing pipeline system that extends to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Green groups claim the pipeline would wreak havoc on the environment. Since the project was first proposed in 2008, these activists have demanded the pipeline undergo a variety of environmental reviews. The Obama and Trump administrations carried out six rigorous assessments. Each time, the pipeline passed with flying colors.

An analysis by the consulting firm IHS found Keystone XL would have “no material impact” on greenhouse gas emissions. The Obama State Department reached a similar conclusion in a 2014 study.

Keystone XL doesn’t just meet environmental standards — it exceeds them. In 2013, Keystone developer TC Energy agreed to bolster the pipeline with 57 safety features not required by law.

Even without these additions, Keystone XL would be safer than the status quo. Pipelines deliver oil safely 99.999 percent of the time, making them the best energy transportation method by far. Compared to pipelines, trains are 4.5 times more likely to experience an accident or incident while transporting oil.

Delaying Keystone doesn’t just put the environment at risk. It also compromises our national security. If U.S. refineries can’t import heavy grades of crude oil from friendly countries like Canada, they’ll have to rely on hostile, volatile nations. As one 2013 report noted, Venezuela “would be the number one beneficiary” of not building the pipeline.

Keystone XL would also strengthen our economy. The State Department predicts the construction phase alone would create 42,000 jobs and generate well over $100 million in state, local and property taxes.

Plus, the pipeline will boost activity at refineries in Texas, Oklahoma, Montana and North Dakota, which employ thousands of American workers. All told, Keystone XL is set to expand the U.S. economy by $3.4 billion.

Green groups have obstructed progress long enough — it’s time for them to stop their endless protesting and accept that the scientific studies they demanded are complete, even if they don’t like the results.

Michael James Barton is the founder of Hyatt Solutions and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)