Recently, the Obama Administration announced it will extend a key review period of the Keystone XL Pipeline indefinitely. Most political pundits think this delay will push a decision until after the 2014 mid-term elections, which could signal the Administration’s intent to not approve the project. However, in its announcement, the State Department cited ongoing litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court (which could re-route the pipeline) and additional time needed to review an unprecedented number of public comments received during the most recent comment period.
Pipeline Hold Up = Democratic Holdup?
With 36 US Senate races this year, 21 of which are currently held by Democrats, a decision to not allow the pipeline could be detrimental to moderate Democrats running in highly contested races. As of April 30th, Real Clear Politics predicts that 45 seats are safe or likely Democrat and 47 seats are safe or likely Republican. Eight seats are toss-ups and include seven seats currently held by Democrats.
Prior to the announcement 11 Democratic Senators urged President Obama in a letter to make a final decision by the end of May, saying that the process “has been exhaustive in its time, breadth and scope.” Six of the eleven who signed the letter are on the ballot this fall and four (Senators Begich, Landrieu, Pryor, and Hagan) are in toss-up races according to RCP. Two of the most vocal supporters of the pipeline: Senator Landrieu (D-LA) is concerned by what seems to be an “indefinite” delay of the project; and Senator Begich (D-AR) is “appalled at the continued foot-dragging” to reach a decision on the pipeline.
Where Does The Pipeline Go?
The pipeline, as mapped, is proposed to go through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska where it can connect with existing pipelines. It could carry as much as 800,000 barrels of oil a day to refineries in the Gulf Coast.
Supporters of the project are touting that the Keystone XL pipeline:
- Is indeed a “shovel ready” project and could put roughly 9,000 Americans to work upon approval.
- Will support over 42,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide.
- Will provide $20 billion in economic activity.
- Will increase North America’s energy independence.
Opponents of the project insist that the Keystone XL pipeline:
- Will negatively effect climate change by burning tar sands oil (the particular oil to be pumped through the pipeline).
- Could result in increase oil spills.
- Will not increase America’s energy independence since the oil will be bought by China.
- Will force families to surrender their land under eminent domain.
Pipeline supporters are pushing for a quick vote in the Senate (which include Republicans and several Democrats on the ballot this fall). Supporters have a clear majority (more than 60) to pass approval for the pipeline and defeat any tactics by opponents to block a vote, however, they don’t have the required 2/3 majority to override a possible veto by President Obama.
Recall, that some senators were debating to attach the pipeline approval to a transportation bill in 2012 which President Obama threatened to veto if passed. Currently, the President has not commented on this round of pipeline negotiations in the Senate.