Election year politics has been heating up over the federal permitting of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
This pipeline will transport crude oil extracted from Oil Sands Fields in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of the US. Since this project crosses international borders, the State Department is charged with responsibility for the permitting process. The Federal permitting process has exceeded 3 years.
Oil Sands Crude is toxic and often described as the dirtiest crude available today.
In July 2010, an Enbridge Energy pipeline burst spilling millions of gallons of Tar Sands Crude Oil into the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek Michigan. This impacted citizens and businesses. Property values near the spill have plummeted. And nearly 40 miles of the river has remained closed to the public. This is one of the most expensive pipeline spills to have occurred in the United States.
Although Montana, North Dakota and other states have granted permits for construction, Nebraska has not. The governor of Nebraska, Republican Governor Dave Heineman and his state blocked construction based on concerns that the pipeline's route threatens environmentally sensitive areas. The governor has requested changing the pipeline's route to avoid an area named the "Sand Hills" since a leak could impact the Ogallala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to over 1.5 million people.
The State Department has been slow to grant federal permits as they complete studies including Environmental Impacts. On November 11, 2011, President Obama delayed the administration's decision on the project. After an attempt to pass a bill that would take the permitting process and decision away from the administration, Congress was able to attach a provision to the Payroll Tax Bill that would require a decision on the Pipeline by February 21, 2012. As a result, the administration denied the permit stating that the ultimatum forced the decision.
This has resulted in building a political strategy for the Republican candidates who state that President Obama is responsible for lost jobs and threats to US oil security. Questions are being asked whether the house bills were proposed and debated for purely political reasons.
The Ogallal Aquifer is located across several states. The principle environmental concern is that one or more spills of toxic crude into the Aquifer could devastate the water supply for a large region. What are the risks and the costs to mitigate these risks?
If this is to become a major election year point, the debate will be interesting. I personally believe that the republican campaign will back away since they will be attacking areas of the Federal Government tasked by law passed by the Congress of the United states to protect the Environment. And with the stakes being very high, actions of the republican led congress directly impacted that process.
For more information Google the following keywords:
tar oil sands keystone XL Nebraska EPA
YouTube: Kalamzoo River Tar Sands Oil Spill
Nebraska and Keystone XL
Disclosure: Jacob Epstein is an equity holder in Fuel Cell Energy which partners with Enbridge Energy to develop Fuel Cell Applications. He has been a member of Environmental Groups such as the Appalachian Mountain club. He is a member and has served on the board of the FBI Infragard Connecticut Chapter whose mission includes protection of Critical Infrastructures such as Energy and Water systems through the trusted sharing of information.