Back in January the Obama administration rejected an application from TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the international border, blaming Republicans for “rushing” a decision despite years, billions of dollars and no fewer than three studies into the project. Since then Obama has come under no small amount of fire from Republicans and Democrats alike, who are pointing to higher energy prices (particularly gas prices) as evidence of a need for less restrictive energy policies.
Now TransCanada has submitted another application for approval to the Obama administration, and this time around Obama is hinting that it may just pass:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney used the announcement to hammer Republicans, saying, “House Republicans forced a rejection of the company’s earlier application in January, by not allowing sufficient time for important review or even the identification of a complete pipeline route.”
“But as we made clear, the president’s decision in January in no way prejudged future applications. We will ensure any project receives the important assessment it deserves and will base a decision to provide a permit on the completion of that review,” Carney added.
Republicans remained cautious in their response, arguing the news that a new pipeline route is being considered raises fresh questions about the administration’s previous opposition.
“It’s good news that progress is continuing on a project that would create tens of thousands of American jobs and keep Canada from selling North American energy to the Chinese, but it also makes the Obama administration’s refusal to approve it even more disturbing,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio).
Setting all partisan politics aside, I really hope the Obama administration does sign off on the pipeline, if only for the sake of ending the ridiculous and unnecessary government sandbagging.
Politically speaking, though, it will be interesting to see what Obama does. Will he still delay a decision beyond the election? Or will he use approval for the pipeline as some sort of surprise during the campaign. Given the amount of attention and consternation the Keystone pipeline issue has attracted, it would be easy for Obama to use a quick approval of the pipeline as a way to shift an unfavorable news cycle at a critical moment in the campaign.
It’s sad that the Keystone project could be used this way, though. Politicians ought not be leveraging restrictions on commerce into political gain.