Yesterday Rep. Kristi Noem and the U.S. House voted for the tenth time to usurp executive authority and force immediate federal approval of the Canadian tar sands pipeline and eminent domain land grab known as Keystone XL.
Rep. Noem retreads this excuse for her vote:
Delaying Keystone is depriving South Dakota of good jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for cash-strapped counties, and relief for the roads and rails that are currently crowded with oil transit. Moreover, the White House has released more than 20,000 pages of reviews showing Keystone is in the best interest of our environment and our national economy – even admitting in a State Department report that the pipeline would support approximately 42,100 jobs.
In the time that it’s taken to approve Keystone, 10,000 miles of pipeline have been laid in the U.S. – that’s equal to eight Keystone XL Pipelines. We’ve debated Keystone long enough; now is the time to build it [Rep. Kristi Noem, e-mail to supporters, 2015.01.09].
Rick Weiland says Rep. Noem and the House are confused by Big Oil and Big Money:
There isn’t a more egregious example of the stranglehold that ‘big money’ has on our Congress and elected officials than this effort to build the Keystone pipeline.
As I stated throughout my campaign for the United States Senate, this is all about greed -- billions of dollars of it every year.
Early on, the perpetrators of this con, TransCanada, a foreign oil corporation and their ‘big money’ investors, boasted about creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and making America more energy secure. They began their ‘big money’ television campaign and commenced convincing the people of South Dakota and around the country that this was a good thing.
In fact, during the last weeks of the campaign, there was a ‘big money’ effort to tie the rail car shortage and grain problem South Dakota is experiencing, as another reason to build Keystone. The lie was if you build the pipeline, it would move oil so that the rail system would be freed up to move grain.
Fact is, there are no real jobs -- thirty-five permanent jobs according to the GAO and another 1800 temporary jobs for the entire project.
Fact is, Keystone XL is an export pipeline. Most of the oil is moving from the tar sands of Canada to the state of Texas for export to China. We get very little of the oil, so where is the ‘energy security’? We are nothing more than a pass through, taking on the risk for no reward.
With regard to relieving the problem of the inability of our railway system to ship grain, fact is, the oil coming out of the Bakken fields in ND, not Canada, ties up the rail system. These producers have very little interest in using Keystone. They want the flexibility to move their product by rail and truck to markets here in the United States.
In fact, I cannot think of one reason to build this pipeline other than to placate ‘big oil’ and their ‘big money’. I can think of lots of reasons not to. Did you know, TransCanada, a foreign oil corporation, can take South Dakota farm and ranch land without landowner permission through ‘eminent domain’?
Did you know that Keystone One, built in 2010, leaks on a regular basis -- some big leaks too, and that Keystone XL is going to be built over the Ogallala Aquifer, a vital source of water for our region.
And did you know, that the energy it takes to extract the tar sand oil, liquefying it for transport, refining and shipping it overseas for sale, will dump 100 million tons of additional carbon into the atmosphere.
When the threat of climate change has 99% of the scientists in the world seriously worried about the future of the planet and the human race, this greed is inexcusable and needs to be exposed and rejected. We should be transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, not doubling down on Keystone [Rick Weiland, press release, 2015.01.09].
On the same day the House repeated its mistake, the Nebraska Supreme Court came one vote shy of requiring pipeliner TransCanada to draw a new route for Keystone XL through Nebraska. Pipeline opponents needed five judges out of the seven to agree with a lower court that a state law giving the governor authority to approve the pipeline route instead of the Nebraska Public Service Commission violated the state constitution. Four judges agreed, but three avoided the issue and said the plaintiffs lacked standing.
(O.K., new rule: from now on, before any lawsuit proceeds, we get a clear ruling from the court on who has standing and who doesn't. Or better yet, on Keystone XL, where we have Congressmen from Minnesota and Ohio voting for a pipeline that doesn't cross their state because they say all Americans will benefit from shipping Canadian oil to China, all Americans get standing!)
The Indigenous Environmental Network and Dakota Rural Action say their fight to block Keystone XL in South Dakota will continue. They encourage President Barack Obama to help them out:
“The Nebraska State Supreme Court decision does not change the facts on the matter. The Keystone XL pipeline still remains a threat to the livelihoods of America's farmers, ranchers, tribal nations, and individual landowners. And the fact remains that TransCanada cannot build Keystone XL in South Dakota.
We South Dakota pipeline fighters stand strong in our commitment to see the Keystone XL permit rejected by our state's Public Utilities Commission and by President Obama.
The President has all the information he needs to act and reject Keystone XL today. This pipeline fails the President's climate test. We encourage him to make the right choice to the benefit of us all" [Indigenous Environmental Network and Dakota Rural Action, press release, 2015.01.09].
President Obama has said he will veto the Keystone XL bill that Congress will shortly send him. Remember that his veto will not stop Keystone XL; it will only reject Congress's effort to force approval. The President will still render his own decision on TransCanada's permit application to the U.S. State Department. But remember, President Obama has been playing a coy but clever waiting game. He appears to be letting the clock run to give other forces—the Nebraska Supreme Court, the South Dakota PUC, and now the plunging price of oil, which may not kill tar sands but does change the politics—to stop the pipeline for him.
But President Obama's waiting game is about to run up against its own deadline. Hillary Clinton has only a few months to announce whether she's running for President or not. If she runs, she will run clearly center. She has already been dodging the Keystone XL issue with groups who'd like her to plug tar sands opposition into her pro-environment rhetoric. Clinton's ties to tar sands lobbyists suggest she knows who butters her bread and will advocate the Keystone XL pipeline to win votes from the moderate middle.
That gives President Obama two reasons to take Keystone XL off the table before Clinton's Presidential aspiration becomes official:
- Reading P&R Miscellany, the President knows that Keystone XL could split the Dem base. He can take the issue off the table, take the heat as a lame duck, and help Hillary focus on keeping Dems together.
- If the Obama–Clinton feud is real, and if the President knows his former Secretary of State supports Keystone XL, he'll want to knock this leg out from under her before the campaign really gets going. President Obama won't go for a direct, distracting confrontation with Clinton during her campaign, because he, unlike Harry Reid, would put winning before personal grudges. But he will take a chance to do what's right, block the pipeline, and force Clinton to campaign on other issues.
Expect Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds to jump on the Keystone XL bandwagon again next week. Expect the President to veto Congress's latest maneuvering, but then watch for a proper Presidential decision some time this year, before Hillary Clinton dclares her candidacy.