Mandating a Keystone XL Decision: Another Polluter Ploy that Congress Should Reject

Keystone XL Legacy: More Tar Sands Pollution (image courtesy
Polluter lobbyists launched their latest ploy to funnel massive quantities of dirty fuel through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. It would seem that even though the State Department and President Obama admitted they need more timeto address the project’s considerable problem areas, the industry figures they’ll get a better shake in Congress.

Nebraska Republican Congressman Lee Terry, now a close ally to the tar sands industry, announced on Friday his plans to introduce a bill to require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve – not require FERC to consider or evaluate — the pipeline within 30 days of receiving an application.

Under current law, the President has the responsibility to decide on projects that cross international boundaries like Keystone XL, to decide on the merits, on the basis of facts and public comments, not make a decision on an artificial timeline mandated by Congress.

We’ve made clear before that tar sands pipelines need more study, because the fuel is more corrosive, and pumped heated and at high pressure.  His plan amounts to skipping a review altogether and replacing it with a rubber stamp approval.

Adding insult to injury, Congressman Terry told a reporter that the House leadership will stick his pipeline bill into the presumably “must-pass” payroll tax cut and unemployment extension bill that Congress will vote on before year’s end.

Tar Sands Toxic Sludge (image courtesy:
The industry and Mr. Terry show a disregard for safety, and those species, places and people who might be harmed by a spill. According to media reports, under the bill, if FERC fails to act in 30 days, the permit would automatically be granted.  In addition, FERC lacks expertise on pipelines and tar sands, and isn’t accountable to the President, who should have final say over whether we commit to generations of dirty fuels coming from Keystone XL.

So in essence, the Terry team which presumably includes pipeline Canadian petro-giant TransCanada, wants to set up a fast-track, insider-greased, totally untested, expedited, merits-be-damned permitting process and ignore all the science, analysis and public comment on the environmental and other impacts of this 2,000-mile pipeline.

What’s curious is Congressman Terry will have to explain his scheme to the ranchers and farms whose land and jobs would be endangered by Keystone XL running through his state. His bill may satisfy the holiday wish list of big polluters, but at what cost to the people who would have to clean the mess from a major spill.

Extracting more dirty energy and shipping it down through the heart of the U.S. from Canada is not the answer to American energy security.  In fact, company officials have all but said the oil would be exported. It also sets us back in creating homegrown clean energy industry jobs that can power our economy for generations while reducing the threat of climate change.