President Obama last year delayed the final decision the Keystone XL Pipeline. Since then, the President promised in his second inaugural address that the United States would “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” One day later, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approved a revised route for the pipeline, removing a major hurdle to its construction.
The Keystone XL pipeline has been a hotly debated topic for many years. In November of 2011, the Obama Administration pushed the deadline on its final pipeline decision into 2013, determining that current impact studies on the proposed pipeline were insufficient to make a final decision.
What's at Stake:
ASBC believes that if it is not addressed, climate change is going to impose substantial economic cost on the US through the need to harden our infrastructure and repair storm-damaged homes, businesses and other assets. These costs will make the US economy less productive and less competitive. To address this danger, the United States needs to take action both to lower our own carbon output and put ourselves in a better negotiation position with other large emitting nations (mainly China and India) without whose cooperation no solution is possible.
Further, the money that would be spent to build the pipeline would help the economy more if spent towards developing less carbon-intensive energy sources and infrastructure (such as smart grid) and increasing energy efficiency. In fact, a March 2012 study from Cornell University noted, an equal investment in clean energy generates 3 to 4 times as many jobs as investments in fossil fuels, without the potential environmental hazards posed by pipelines like Keystone XL.
The State Department, which has to approve the pipeline since it originates in a foreign country, released its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Keystone project at the end of January 2014. They concluded that “[t]he total direct and indirect emissions associated with the proposed project would contribute to cumulative global [greenhouse gas] emissions,” but argued that blocking the pipeline would not prevent the oil from being produced and transported elsewhere.
This was similar to the findings of their draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), released on March 1st, 2013. In it, they claimed the pipeline will not “likely result in significant adverse environmental effects,” though that report admitted that tar sands generate far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petroleum, and that the US can meet its energy needs without the pipeline. Without Keystone, however, transportation capabilities for the tar sands may be very limited and could limit how much of the tar sands get burned, even if they are still extracted.
Now, the administration must decide whether the pipeline is in the "national interest." That means EPA and the departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy and Homeland Security have 90 days to offer their view on any issue related to the pipeline. Once Secretary of State John Kerry makes a decision - for which there is no timeline - the other agencies can disagree and request the decision get moved to the Oval Office. There is no deadline for a decision from the president. ASBC has already issued a statement urging the Obama administration to reject the pipeline because of the effect it will have on carbon emissions.
The State Department is accepting comments on the Keystone XL pipeline and the Final Environmental Impact Statement during the official comment period that ends March 7, 2014. As a business leader your voice is crucial. Please click to add your name to the business leaders’ sign-on letter today and we will forward this statement to the State Department by March 7.
In his June climate address, President Obama referenced the pending decision on the pipeline, saying, “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Ultimately, the decision to approve or reject the pipeline is President Obama’s. We hope he will show his commitment to fighting climate change and block Keystone XL’s construction for good.
Visit ASBC's Clean Energy Agenda Energy & Environment Campaign Page.