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More than three years after an initial permit application was filed and following the submission of hundreds and hundreds of pages of additional documents, President Obama announced that he was rejecting TransCanada’s proposal to construct the Keystone XL pipeline because his administration supposedly wasn’t given sufficient time to review the project. Newt Gingrich called the decision “stunningly stupid” and it’s hard to argue with the former speaker on this one.
The president tried to duck responsibility for the decision, pointing the finger at Republicans in Congress who attached a pipeline provision to the short-term payroll tax cut extension approved last year that required Obama to approve Keystone XL by February 21 or explain why he was killing the project. This is yet another example of the President’s “the buck stops there” approach to leadership.
“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama said. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.”
The president would have us believe that the State Department had but sixty days to review the project and they couldn’t possibly come to a decision in that short a time. In fact, the State Department has been reviewing the proposed project for over three years. In setting a deadline for the decision, congressional Republicans were not imposing an arbitrary, unreasonable deadline. They were rather attempting to force an end to the dithering and waffling that has gone on for far too long.
The amount of documentation that has been filed and reviewed since TransCanada first filed its permit application in September 2008 is staggering. The company has submitted thousands of pages of data, plans, maps, studies and all of the other bureaucratic flotsam and jetsam that government requires these days. In response, the State Department has generated thousands of pages of its own, including a Final Environmental Impact Statement that spans eight massive volumes. The president’s claim that his administration didn’t have “the information necessary to approve the project” defies credulity. The administration has a mountain of information, and it’s all available on the Internet.
What was really wanting here was time to respond to all of the complaints and pseudo-concerns that obstructionist groups like the Sierra Club and National Resources Defense Council have raised in their attempts to kill the project. As part of our dysfunctional regulatory system, well-heeled environmental groups can (and do) file a practically endless number of comments when permit applications are being reviewed. Typically, the vast majority of such comments are without merit, but that’s not the point as far as the environmental groups are concerned. Their aim is to gum up the works of the system, in the hopes that developers will tire of the process and give up, as well as to establish the basis of the lawsuits that inevitably follow any regulatory decision that runs contrary to their wishes.
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