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article imagePresident Obama vetoed controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project

By Grace C. Visconti     Feb 25, 2015 in Environment
Washington D.c. - On February 24, U.S. President Barack Obama vetoed the contentious Keystone XL Pipeline project. GOP lawmakers are unable to reverse his decision after a long battle with power struggles, interruptions, public protests, and legal challenges.
His decision will stand since the count for overruling a veto is two-thirds in each chamber of Congress. Citing the environmental risks, the current legal battle with landowners and farmers in Nebraska, the State Department’s review in process, and uncertainty as to the final route of the pipeline, his veto was signed, sealed and delivered to stop the construction. His absolute final decision however will occur after all of the data and recommendations are given to him.
In this CNN collection of reports and opinions, discussions ensued regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline potential leaks into the Ogallala Aquifer which supplies eight U.S. states (South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas) with freshwater, the transport of Canada’s “dirty oil” through numerous U.S. states, and Obama’s admission that it won’t affect the U.S. gas prices so therefore will be a “nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.”
In this particular speech recorded in the video "Obama: Keystone issue is Canadian oil," Obama explained the risks involved in approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and clarified to the American people, pros and cons of the project.
Here’s the essence of the conflict regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline in the following speech Obama gave today to the American people. “At issue with Keystone is that it is not American oil. It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada. That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf. Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market and it would be sold all around the world.”
He explained further that “sometimes the way this gets sold is let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here and the implication is that it’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States. It’s not. There’s a global oil market and it’s very good for Canadian companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to the U.S. consumers, it’s not going to be even a nominal benefit to the U.S. consumers.”
On the issue of jobs, President Obama stated that it would have created a couple of thousand temporary jobs and some jobs would be for the refining process in the Gulf, but it wasn’t enough of a sell. “When you consider what we could be doing by rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country, something the Congress could authorize, we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs or a million jobs. If that’s the argument, there are a lot of more direct ways to create well paying American construction jobs.”
Obama spoke of the economic effects of climate change if in the end he chooses to approve this project. “With respect to the costs, all I’ve said is I want to make sure that if in fact this project goes forward, I want to make sure that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people, some of them long term but significant costs nevertheless if we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, and more droughts. There are direct economic impacts on that.” He gave the example of Hurricane Sandy, and that they are having to consider how to increase preparedness and how to structure infrastructure and housing along the Jersey shore. He used this example to put a dollar figure on the effects of climate change.
Obama also mentioned the legal conflict involved with Nebraska to stop Keystone XL from being built and installed on the properties of vigilant landowners and farmers. “You’ve got a Nebraska judge who is still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate. Once that is resolved then the State Department will have all of the information it needs to make its decision. But I’m just trying to give this perspective because there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula as to what ails the U.S. economy and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.”
The clarification was also made by Obama that, “It was never going to be about the lowering of gas prices because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market and that’s what determines oil prices.”
On the Canadian side of the border, the fight goes on as the oil industry and its supporters vowed that the issue is far from over. The Keystone bill was an attempt “to usurp a presidential responsibility” according to this CBC report "Keystone XL bill vetoed by Barack Obama after approval by Congress." Since cross-border pipeline permits are the responsibility of the president to decide not Congress, his decision was firm and final at this time.
The 1,900-kilometre pipeline that would bring 800,000 barrels of Alberta crude oil every day to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast still has to clear the regulatory process, currently in its final stage. Also, once the Nebraska judge has ruled that the route should be approved or not out of respect for the landowners and farmers, then Obama will give his absolute final decision whether the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline is in the U.S. national interest that he has already hinted is not. He still has to weigh the positive and negative effects on the country after reviewing all of the data and recommendations.
Meanwhile, environmental groups and landowners along the route celebrated the veto and hope that Obama goes one step further to shut the project down completely. But the Calgary-based company TransCanada, builder of the pipeline, vows to continue the negotiating process to work through concerns of the U.S. government and lawmakers.
Alberta’s Premier Jim Prentice, although disappointed with the decision, said in a press statement today, “While today’s decision was expected, it does not change the fact that Keystone XL would advance North American energy security and prosperity while offering the U.S. access to responsibly developed energy from a close ally and friend." He continued, "Our commitment to responsible energy development is steadfast, and our environmental standards are much greater than those of other countries that send their oil to the U.S. market every day."
Liberal critic Geoff Regan said in the same CBC article that he believes the veto could have been avoided if Prime Minister Stephen Harper put together a comprehensive environmental plan that would have limited emissions.
But the goal and feasibility of having “limited emissions” is questionable considering the fast pace at which oil sands production would increase in Alberta’s north with the addition of two huge projects - the Keystone XL Pipeline and the pending Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline — along with the oil sands production already in process, thereby potentially causing more contamination to land, water, air and communities while increasing climate change.
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