Now that Governor Dave Heineman sent his approval to Washington DC for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, connecting Canadian sand tar and North Dakota oil fields to southern refineries; the political push is on for the Administration’s approval. The President, while expressing support for energy independence before the election, and giving approval to portions of the pipeline to ease the movement of some nationally produced oil, has deferred his final decision while allowing the states to reach their own conclusions, based on their ecological concerns and issues. Governor Heineman asked for a re-route planned to circumvent much of the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the largest underground fresh water source, providing water to several midwestern cities and much of its agriculture. Governor Heineman also asked for adjustments to accommodate a burrowing beetle, and also for third-party assurances to address clean up costs. Environmental groups still oppose the pipeline, saying the concerns that have been addressed are not enough, and need further study.
A letter from the Senate, with 51 signatures, has been sent. Another letter, with the signatures of every federal representative from Nebraska (all three Congressmen, and the two Senators) has been offered. States along the pipeline see the chance to add jobs and grow their economies with the flow of northern oil.
While most energy decisions in the United States are routed to the Department of the Interior (which had jurisdiction and oversight authority on the Gulf oil spill), the XL pipeline is being reviewed by the State Department, which is generally more accountable for public safety in relation to foreign activity. Issues like diplomatic security in Benghazi, Libya, are the usual mission for the Secretary of State. Of course, she’s had that issue on her plate, along with her health problems the past month. The office of Secretary of State is being passed, presumably to John Kerry. He is in the middle of the confirmation process; but the feedback from his hearings from both parties, so far, seems very favorable and his confirmation seems to be assured. He should be able to offer a decision to the president by March.
The President supported the purpose and plans for the pipeline in the past; but he also supported not raising the debt ceiling under George Bush, but now wants to raise it without Congressional approval. His first executive order was to close Guantanamo Bay, but it remains open. He said the 8 years prior to his first inauguration the national debt rose at an unreasonable rate; but managed to raise the debt twice as much in the first four years he served. So, opinions he expressed in the past do not necessarily assure his position today. His inaugural address also reinforced support for green energy and environmental views, and he’s been playing to the more liberal parts of his party with support for gun control, immigration reform, and raising taxes without cutting spending. We are in the second term, which is traditionally the time for creating legacies for a President. It will be interesting to see which direction he chooses in this decision.