Administration should not heed TransCanada's flawed rationale for further delay of Keystone XL decision

White House KXL Protest.jpg

In a strategy to avoid an expected federal rejection of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada is urging the State Department to delay its decision until after the pipeline company has clarified its route in Nebraska. This desperate move demonstrates how much the case for the troubled tar sands pipeline has deteriorated. Just a week after Shell - citing a lack of pipeline capacity - pulled the plug on a major tar sands in situ facility that been in construction for several years, it has never been more clear that Keystone XL fails the President's climate test. Altering its route through Nebraska isn't going to change that. After an exhaustive review of Keystone XL, the President has all the reasons he needs to reject Keystone XL.

It's important to note that TransCanada has no authority to suspend the federal government's decision making process for Keystone XL. TransCanada can only make a case to the State Department to delay its decision, and the case it makes is a poor one. The company suggests that because it the State Department extended the review process when Nebraska's route was uncertain in the past, it should do so again (an about face for a company that argued that those delays were unnecessary at the time). While in earlier cases, TransCanada was required to submit an entirely new route that has not been subject to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, in this case the federal government has already reviewed every route that the tar sands company has proposed to Nebraska's Public Service Commission (PSC). Moreover, State Department's rationale for extending the process in 2014 was not entirely based on legal uncertainties in Nebraska, but also due to the need to review an unprecedented 2.5 million public comments.

After concluding an exhaustive National Interest Determination (NID) process, the Administration should have more than enough information to reject the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on grounds that have nothing to do with the pipeline's route. In fact, it would be a needless waste of public resources to allow Nebraska to go through a long routing process if the Administration has sufficient information to reject the federal permit for Keystone XL on other grounds.

Keystone XL is not in the nation's interest, which is why over 100 prominent scientists across North America have called for Keystone XL's rejection. Analysis by both the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that Keystone XL would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution, failing the President's climate test.[1] Keystone XL would drive expansion of tar sands mining and drilling by providing access to new markets overseas.

The timing of the decision to reject Keystone XL tar sands pipeline rests with the Administration. President Obama has made it clear that Keystone XL would be all risk and no reward for the American people. Now it's time for him to reject the tar sands pipeline for good.


[1] State's 2014 environmental review concluded that Keystone XL would have a substantial impact on tar sands expansion with oil prices below $75 per barrel. Final Environmental Impact Statement, Market Analysis, pg. 1.4-8, http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/221147.pdf.

About the Authors

Anthony Swift

Director, Canada Project, International program

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