Nearly eight-and-a-half years after its initial application, the Keystone XL pipeline project has been given the green light (“subject to a renegotiation of terms by us”) by an executive order signed by President Trump today. Finally.
Whether the impetus and economics is still there to build it (with oil prices in the mid-$50 barrel range) remains to be seen. But I’d imagine so, if nothing more than as an infrastructural investment in the future.
But from the federal government standpoint, this shouldn’t matter. If private monies want to take the risk, the federal government should not stand in the way. After all, the Keystone XL pipeline passed each and every environmental impact/safety assessment along the way. Even the climate impact, much touted and hyped by the previous Administration and its supporters, was shown, dispassionately, to be inconsequential—a mere 1/100th of a degree of warming by century’s end (and that’s being generous).
President Obama rejected the pipeline for no other reason than for appearances—to make it seem to the rest of the world that the U.S. was serious about climate change. Apparently, he didn’t see the irony.
His successor is resurrecting the pipeline for the same reason—appearances. In this case, the appearance of creating jobs. But as I exasperatingly explained in these pages some two years ago (“Keystone XL Pipeline: Enough Already!”):
This project is so small in the grand scheme of anything it boggles the mind anyone outside of those directly involved in building and operating it gives it a second thought…
At this point, the Keystone XL is just another construction project. In fact, that is all it ever was. If it didn’t require crossing the border with Canada (which required a “presidential permit”), we never would have heard a peep about it.
With the pipeline’s apparent revival, now at least, all the government resources spent examining and re-examining and fretting and re-fretting, etc. over the project will have amounted to something—even though that something should have been decided (and approved) some four or five years ago.
What executive powers taketh away, executive powers giveth. I’m sure this won’t be the last of Obama’s symbolic actions on climate change that President Trump overturns. Each will better clear the way for us to move on to more important matters.
Update: With the release of the actual text of the Executive Order (made available several hours after Trump signed it), it's not so much an “approval” of the Keystone XL pipeline as it is an invitation for TransCanada to resubmit its application with the promise that it will be decided upon within 60 days with, wink, wink, a more favorable outcome. So, it seems though this won’t be the last we’ve heard of it, this battle is moving closer to its completion.