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Confusing the History on the Keystone XL

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted February 23, 2012

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney this week, on the administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline:

"In terms of Keystone, as you all know, the history here is pretty clear. And the fact is because Republicans decided to play political with Keystone, their action essentially forced the administration to deny the permit process because they insisted on a time frame in which it was impossible to completely approve the pipeline." 

Wait. In the span of two sentences the history on the Keystone XL took a pretty good beating. In fact, in the exchange with White House reporters the only thing that’s clear is that Carney’s job was to make the Keystone XL history unclear. Let’s parse this statement by the press secretary and others.

First, the fact is the Keystone XL has been sitting on the administration’s plate for more than three years – or about twice as long as similar approvals have taken in the past. Talk of a rushed time frame to “completely approve the pipeline” is absurd after more than three years, three successful environmental reviews and numerous public hearings across the country.

More from Carney, quizzed by ABC’s Jake Tapper on how the president could claim to be for an all-of-the-above energy strategy and reject a pipeline that would bring upwards of 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada:

"But the President didn't turn down the Keystone pipeline.”

Whoah! The president is the chief executive. It’s his administration.

Carney:

“There was a process in place, with long precedent, run out of the State Department because of the issue of the pipeline crossing an international boundary …”

Suggesting that the State Department’s process was beyond the reach of the White House, in a kind of the-buck-stops-over-there assertion, is just dodging responsibility for a decision that clearly runs counter to the national interest.

Carney:

"The Keystone XL decision “required an amount of time for proper for review after an alternate route was deemed necessary through Nebraska at the request of the Republican Governor of Nebraska and other stakeholders in Nebraska and the region that needed to play out, to be done appropriately. You can't review and approve a pipeline, the route for which doesn't even exist.”

Now blame shifts to Nebraska and Gov. Dave Heineman, who objected to the pipeline’s route through the state’s Sand Hills region. But here’s Heineman last month, puzzled that the administration continues to use Nebraska as an excuse to shelve the project. The governor said the pipeline could start from either end and finish in Nebraska, which is possible because all of the other approvals are in place and because no one believes the pipeline won’t win final approval from Nebraska:

“At a minimum, the president of the United States could do a conditional yes. … Since the Department of State basically approved the old route, we don’t really think at the end of the day there is going to be a challenge there. … When you have an 8.5 percent unemployment rate in America – this is a no brainer.”

So yes, Carney’s memory on the Keystone XL needs refreshing. (See Sean Hackbarth’s post over at FreeEnterprise.com.) The pipeline would create 20,000 U.S. jobs during its construction phase and be integral to fully utilizing Canada’s oil sands resources that could create 500,000 U.S. jobs by 2035. As Hackbarth notes, the project has labor union and business support.

Meanwhile, Carney’s boss keeps talking about an all-of-the-above energy strategy – words that ring hollow when you look at what the real history of the administration’s handling of the Keystone XL pipeline.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.