EPA vs. EPA – Keystone XL Round

Bob Greco

Bob Greco
Posted February 5, 2015

Two of the Environmental Protection Agency’s seven statements of purpose reference “best available scientific information” and “accurate information.”  These also happen to be two things that many in Washington, D.C., feel that EPA is setting aside in the pursuit of political goals.  Yesterday the agency released comments on the Keystone XL pipeline that gave plenty of credence to its critics.

It is somewhat of a shame, because EPA’s comments did make many good points.  It acknowledged the comprehensiveness of the State Departments review of the project, the usefulness of mitigation measures the project will take to reduce environmental impact and the reduction of risks associated with spills and leaks from the pipeline.  And then we begin to drift from accurate information into political calculation. 

I am not talking about the cherry picking of data on climate, covered here, but in EPA’s inability to stay consistent on oil markets.  From the letter:

Given recent large declines in oil prices and the uncertainty of oil price projections, the additional low price scenario included in the Final SEIS should be given additional weight during decision making…

Sounds like EPA is suggesting that the decision on a project with a 50-year lifespan should be based on the low oil prices of the past few months.  Hmmm, what does EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy think?

Current low oil prices are a short-term blip and will not affect how the U.S. crafts new environmental regulations, including forthcoming standards for heavy duty vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief said Friday. … “We don't think that this small timeline, where there is this extreme fluctuation, is going to continue,” she said.  Reuters 16 Jan 2015

So when EPA wants something, current prices are unimportant. When EPA doesn’t want something, current prices are the most important thing. Got it. 

You would think that given its trials and tribulations with the Renewable Fuel Standard, EPA would have learned its lesson about making policy decisions based on government’s understanding of complex markets.  Actually, who knows, it’s hard to tell these days what EPA thinks.  All bets are off when facts, data and science cease to be firm guideposts for crafting policy and instead become malleable objects shaped to sell policies determined by political considerations.

But in the meantime, based on the most accurate and best available scientific information the Keystone XL pipeline remains clearly in the national interest.  It is time to stop talking –and double talking—it is #TimeToBuild.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Greco is group director of downstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute. With 21 years of experience, Bob directs activities related to refining, pipeline, marketing, and fuels issues. He has managed exploration and production activities, policy analysis, climate change issues, marine transportation, refining, gasoline and jet fuel production issues and Clean Air Act implementation efforts. Before coming to API, Bob was an environmental engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with expertise in automotive emission control technologies. He has a M.S. degree in environmental engineering from Cornell University and a B.A. in biology from Colgate University.

Energy Tomorrow is a project of the American Petroleum Institute – the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry – speaking for the industry to the public, Congress and the Executive Branch, state governments and the media.