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Not giving up on Keystone: Advocates, opponents continue to push for decision on Keystone XL

One of North America's most controversial pipeline projects has been in limbo for nearly a decade, and a decision from the U.S. president isn't coming, North Dakota congressmen said Friday.

1123601+0921 Keystone XL.jpg
Reuters Graphic The above graphic shows the latest route of the Keystone XL designed by TransCanada Corp. Friday marked the sixth anniversary of the pipeline’s initial application date.

One of North America’s most controversial pipeline projects has been in limbo for nearly a decade, and a decision from the U.S. president isn’t coming, North Dakota congressmen said Friday.
Despite the delay, neither side of the Keystone XL pipeline debate is budging.
“We are going to get Keystone because we are going to be able to pass it through Congress,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. “I do believe we will have enough votes to do that after the election.
Six years ago on Friday, TransCanada Corp. filed its initial application for the Keystone XL to the U.S. government. Since then, the pipeline that would transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day, including 100,000 from the Bakken in North Dakota, almost 1,200 miles across the continent from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Neb., has faced multiple challenges. Environmental groups continue to protest against it, stating a possible spill is not worth the risk.
“Americans are fed up with dirty air and water as well as being second-class citizens to corporate profits,” Erich Pica, president of global environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “Across the United States, ordinary peoples are challenging pipelines, rail expansions, port expansions and liquefied natural gas facilities. Companies that wish to pollute our climate and threaten the health of millions of citizens in the pursuit of fossil fuels now have a fight on their hands, from teachers, native tribes and nations, farmers, nurses, scientists, students; activists all.”
The delay has not only held up job opportunities, Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said. North Dakota has seen drastic rail delays as a result of limited infrastructure in place to export the more than 1 million barrels of crude oil being extracted from the Bakken each day. Rail companies now carry 407,642 cars of oil compared to 9,500 in 2008, Hoeven said.
“Set aside for a minute the lost jobs and economic activity, the added risk to our railway system, the delayed commodity shipments for our farmers and the challenge to the nation’s food supply chain,” he said. “How can we continue to import oil from the Middle East when we have ongoing turmoil and groups like ISIL in the region that put American national security at risk?”
No decision in sight One of the most frustrating setbacks for the pipeline is not getting an answer for the project, officials said. Both advocates and opponents have called on President Barack Obama to either reject or approve the project.
“President Obama, the will of the people is clear: It’s not enough to delay this pipeline - it’s time to deny it,” Pica said in a statement.
The pipeline has faced five environmental studies, rejection from Obama in 2012 and several delays. The final route has been sent to Obama’s desk, but an extended comment period that came in April pushed back his decision indefinitely.
Cramer and Hoeven believe the president does not have enough facts to reject the pipeline openly but does not want to approve it either. Therefore, he wants to defeat it with delay, Hoeven said.
“The president will not approve this; that is clear from his actions,” he said.
Hoeven said Obama is not one to go out of his way to work with Congress on finding a solution.
“I think this shows that the president doesn’t work with Congress to get issues like this resolved,” Hoeven said. “That is a problem.”
Cramer criticized Obama for ignoring his environmental and energy advisers, who have told him nothing is wrong with the project. He claims the president is pandering to “his Hollywood friends.”
“This president was going to be the great uniter,” Cramer said. “The problem with him is his idea of uniting is for everybody to do what he wants to do.”
Cramer did admit that Obama has cooperated with Congress on fighting the Islamic State.
“Maybe we are making some progress,” Cramer added. “It’s funny how war and a common enemy can bring people together.”
Other pipelines

Meanwhile, other pipeline companies are trying to tap into the Bakken’s profits.
North Dakota Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of Enbridge Inc., has proposed to build the Sandpiper Pipeline. Beginning at Tioga, the pipeline would transport as much as 350,000 barrels per day to Superior, Wis., more than 600 miles to the east.
The project’s route, which goes through an area near the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota, has met heavy protest from environmental groups, specifically Honor the Earth and Friends of the Headwaters. The groups are concerned the pipeline would threaten the wild rice industry, adding 50 percent of the commercially-sold rice in the world would be affected by the original route.
“If we lose our rice, we will die. That is our reality,” Honor the Earth Founder Winona LaDuke told Forum News Service. “Our water is worth more than their oil. … We do not need to rush anything based on the corporate agenda.”
Due to concern, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has promised to look at alternate routes and has not made a final decision.
Energy Transfer Partners of Texas have also proposed the Bakken Pipeline, which would transport 570,000 bpd from Stanley to Patoka, Ill. The 1,100-mile pipeline has met some resistance from residents in Iowa who are concerned with property rights and eminent domain, but is expected to be in service by the end of 2016.
Cramer and Hoeven agreed North Dakota needs more pipelines to transport oil out of North Dakota, stating it is a solution to freeing up rail cars for other cargo. Keystone XL is just one part of the puzzle, but it could move one-seventh of the oil produced in North Dakota.
“We need to continue to encourage the process of developing and building of other pipelines to market,” Cramer said. “The Keystone represents the worst of politics.”
TransCanada is also looking at other options, Cramer said. The company may look at utilizing more rail or moving oil east across Canada.
Without the president’s approval

Neither side seems to be backing down from the issue.
Friends of the Earth, which has more than 2 million activists in 74 countries and members in all 50 states, boasts that more than 2,000 of its members have been arrested for protesting the pipeline since 2008. More than 50,000 have rallied in Washington, D.C.
As a result, 1.8 million barrels of tar sands oil remain in the ground, and more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide are not polluting the atmosphere, Pica said in celebration of the anniversary.
“The Keystone XL decision now rests with President Obama, but it is clear that he should reject this dirty and senseless pipeline,” Pica said.
TransCanada is also not backing down, stating in a blog that the company’s goal is to have more oil moving through safer pipelines that produce less emissions.
“Unfortunately our opponents do not appear to share this goal,” the blog read. “Instead, they appear to be content for purely symbolic reasons killing American jobs, forcing more oil deliveries by rail, driving up (greenhouse gases) and ensuring the U.S. continues to rely on conflict oil from overseas. This is an outcome most Americans would disagree with.”
Cramer and Hoeven have been working on ways to approve the Keystone XL without presidential approval. The House for the second time passed its Comprehensive Energy Solutions Bill this week, which includes the Northern Route Approval Act that would TransCanada to construct the pipeline.
Hoeven is also sponsoring a bill in the Senate called the North American Energy Infrastructure Act. As of Friday, he had the support of 57 members and expects to pick up three more votes after the election.
“It’s a matter of finding the right vehicle and attaching it to something the president won’t be able to veto,” Hoeven said.
The decision to give up on the project comes down to TransCanada, Cramer said, adding he wouldn’t blame the company if it pulled the plug.
However, it doesn’t appear TransCanada will give up on Keystone XL anytime soon.
“We remain committed to Keystone XL and America,” according to the company’s blog post commemorating the sixth anniversary.
“All we need is the approval to make it happen.”

Baumgarten is the assistant editor of The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1210. Follow her on Facebook at april.baumgarten.

Related Topics: KEVIN CRAMER
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