Our View: Time to face the facts on the Keystone XL
Let’s face it: the Keystone XL is not going in the ground any time soon.
Whether you like it or not, it may be time to move on.
September marks a special month for the Keystone XL. In 2008, TransCanada submitted the application for the project to the National Energy Board of Canada. In 2012, in the same month, TransCanada had to submit an environmental report for a new route, after the first one was rejected by President Barack Obama on Jan. 18, 2012.
The project is arguably one of the most controversial, and disputed, pipeline projects in U.S. history. Those who oppose it say it could put sensitive lands at risk if a spill were to occur. Those who want it to pass say it will create thousands of jobs.
One advantage North Dakota’s U.S. Congressional delegation has been pushing is it could be used to transport oil from the Bakken. They say it could help free up rail cars for other commodities, like grain and coal. It could also reduce truck traffic on the state’s roads.
The North Dakota Pipeline Authority says 59 percent of oil is transported by rail; the rest goes into pipelines. Imagine if we could take 100,000 barrels a day off the rails, as prescribed by Keystone XL officials. How much would that free up for other commodities, especially grain? Not to mention it would reduce the risk of an explosion on the rails.
But that isn’t going to happen through the Keystone XL, not anytime soon. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said Monday he would not make a decision on the project until his state’s Supreme Court rules on a state law that would give the Nebraska Public Service Commission the ability to decide on the pipeline’s placement. A decision is not expected until sometime next year.
Even if a decision is reached, the Obama administration has made it clear it does not want to make a decision on the pipeline. The U.S. State Department has extended the deadline for comments indefinitely.
“Clearly (Obama) doesn’t want to approve this pipeline, but he doesn’t have the courage to say no. Either that or he doesn’t have courage to stand up to his Hollywood political advisers,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
Cramer is probably right. Unless something happens to change Obama’s mind, he will not make a decision on Keystone XL before he leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017. For oil producers, or companies that need space on the rails, that is far too long to wait.
So what is to be done? Luckily, other pipeline companies are trying to present other options. While the Sandpiper Pipeline faces opposition in Minnesota, another pipeline from Energy Transfer Partners of Texas is in the works. The 1,100-mile Bakken Pipeline, as it has been dubbed, would carry 570,000 barrels of oil per day from Stanley to Patoka, Ill. That would be half of the oil produced each day in North Dakota. How many trucks would that take off the roads? How many rail cars could be used for other cargo?
Though it faces opposition in Iowa, the pipeline could be in service by 2016, well before the Keystone XL has a chance of being approved.
No one wants to see an oil spill, and no one wants to risk sensitive land. At the same time, the nation’s thirst for oil is not going to end, and to ask North Dakota to stop producing oil would not only destroy jobs; it would destroy the state’s and country’s economy. We have to find ways to transport oil safely, and in a way that frees up space for agriculture.
It is projects like the Bakken Pipeline that leaders in North Dakota and the U.S. need to look at instead of focusing everything on a dream that may be lost. By no means should people give up on the Keystone XL, but it’s time to form a backup plan and solve the problem.
It’s time for our leaders to face the facts and find a new pipeline to get oil out of the state, or they can put other industries and lives in danger.
The Dickinson Press Editorial Board consists of Publisher Harvey Brock, Managing Editor Dustin Monke and Assistant Editor April Baumgarten.