UPDATED: Rushing To a Full Stop: Obama Gets It Right When He Talks About the Keystone Pipeline
by Jessica Randall, 1/18/2012
UPDATE (2/27/2012): TransCanada announced today that it will move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline. The company now plans to apply for two separate permits: one for the construction between the U.S.-Canadian border and Steele City, Neb. (the "Keystone XL Project") and the second for the construction between Cushing, Okla., and Port Arthur, Tex. (the "Gulf Coast Project").
In a statement, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the administration "look[s] forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that [the Gulf Coast Project] is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner, and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary Federal permits."
Carney's statement also said that "House Republicans forced a rejection of the company’s earlier application in January, by not allowing sufficient time for important review or even the identification of a complete pipeline route. But as we made clear, the President’s decision in January in no way prejudged future applications. We will ensure any project receives the important assessment it deserves, and will base a decision to provide a permit on the completion of that review."
ORIGINAL POST (1/18/2012): Rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline this afternoon, President Obama blamed a short-circuited process that didn't allow the State Department to gather all the information it would have needed to consider before approving the permit.
In a statement, Obama said that "the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment." Last November, he explained it this way:
"Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood. The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people."
Obama is exactly right on those points. At their core, agencies basically have one mission: to protect the well-being of the public. The regulatory process is supposed to be about collecting and evaluating public input and the best available evidence, then making the decisions which best achieve that core goal.
As we wrote on Jan. 10, congressional Republicans made this virtually impossible by slipping a provision into the payroll tax bill that demanded a final ruling on the pipeline permit within 60 days. This kind of obstructionism is just one in a string of examples of how political meddling in the regulatory process makes it harder for agencies to protect the American public.