Keystone XL Review Five Times Longer than Average — AP

by Marlo Lewis on August 13, 2015

in Blog

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“The federal review of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas has dragged on for nearly seven years, more than five times the average for such applications,” Josh Lederman of the Associated Press reports.

“The White House insists it’s simply following a standard and well-established process,” but AP’s analysis of data from the Federal Register, State Department records, congressional correspondence, Congressional Research Service reports, and pipeline owners suggests otherwise:

Under a George W. Bush-era executive order, oil pipelines crossing U.S. borders require a presidential permit, setting off a government-wide review coordinated by the State Department.

An Associated Press examination of every cross-border pipeline application since 2004, when Bush revised the process, shows that the Keystone review has been anything but ordinary.

Since April 2004, when Bush signed his order, the government has taken an average of 478 days — less than a year and a half — to approve or reject all other applications. TransCanada has waited nearly seven years for a ruling.

Moreover, former Bush White House officials who worked on the executive order say the State Department-coordinated process was intended to expedite approval of cross-border pipelines, not delay it:

Approving a pipeline permit “was seen as the most routine, boring thing in the world,” [said] Robert McNally, who was an energy adviser to Bush.

Here’s how the process is supposed to work:

Under Bush’s executive order, the State Department receives permit applications and circulates them to agencies such as the Commerce Department, Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies have 90 days to offer opinions. If the State Department decides to grant approval, it notifies other agencies, which have 15 days to object before a permit is issued.


More than 16 months have passed since the State Department’s 30-day public comment period ended. The State Department has not disclosed whether any agencies have objected to the pipeline. The department has said it is continuing to review the application “in a rigorous, transparent, and objective manner.”

A comparison to previous pipeline applications helps put things in perspective:

The first permit issued after Bush revised the process in 2004 took less than four months from application to signature. Express Pipeline, L.L.C., was expanding a 785-mile pipeline crossing the Canadian border from Hardisty, Alberta, the same town where the proposed Keystone XL would start.

Even the pipeline that took the longest to approve — the 435-mile Vantage Pipeline Project, approved during Obama’s tenure — took fewer than three years, despite requiring complex negotiations with Native American tribes concerned about historical preservation.

The 1,000-mile Alberta Clipper Project, which drew legal challenges from Earthjustice and other groups, took 25 months to approve.

ML Comment

TransCanada filed its first application to build a cross-border pipeline on September 19, 2008, so the KXL Pipeline review process is now in its 83rd month.

What’s behind the administration’s deny-by-delay strategy? The President obviously wants to gratify his environmentalist base, but what’s driving the greens? If they want to build a broad consensus on climate change, identifying their climate agenda with implacable opposition to energy development and shovel-ready projects does not seem like smart politics.

As discussed previously, Keystone foes appear to be motivated by blind hatred — irrational loathing of the oil companies that have done so much to improve the human condition, and without which the highly-mobile lifestyle of today’s environmental elites would not exist.

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