Keystone Pipeline Update

By Kevin Butts – Economic Justice Intern
February 15, 2012

New legislation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate seeks to force approval for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline despite the Obama Administration’s rejection of the project last January. The bills, H.R.3548 and S.2041 were introduced in an effort to bypass the Administration’s decision and transfer the responsibility of federal oversight from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Under H.R.3548, FERC would be required to issue the pipeline’s construction permit within 30 days of receiving the permit application; failure to do so would result in the permit being granted by default.

The State Department issued its recommendation that Obama reject the permit application because the 60-day deadline for review stipulated by the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act did not allot enough time for adequate review of the pipeline’s possible routes. Plans for construction of the pipeline were abandoned due to environmental concerns regarding the project’s foreseen detrimental effects on the Ogallala Aquifer and ecologically unique Sand Hills in Nebraska.

Though the pipeline will no longer traverse the Sand Hills, there is still much concern regarding its effects on the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides the bulk of potable water for 2.3 million people and irrigates almost one-third of America’s crops. Additionally, the tar sands are some of the dirtiest fuels on the planet, already responsible in Canada for increased occurrences of cancer and auto-immune diseases among local populations.

The Columbans are continuing our advocacy against the Keystone XL Pipeline. In 2010 and again in 2011 we petitioned both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reject the pipeline’s construction permit. We participated in rallies against the pipeline and letter writing campaigns. Given the latest legislative developments, we are asking once again for your support. Please read our Action Alert calling on our representatives to oppose H.R.3548 and S.2041 and make a phone call to your members of Congress. We will continue to monitor this issue and apply pressure where we can to ensure the health and sustainability of Creation.