API official calls for end to nearly 6-year Keystone XL permit delay

Three days before the sixth anniversary of TransCanada Corp.’s original filing for presidential approval of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline’s cross-border permit application, an American Petroleum Institute official said the Obama administration is catering to a small minority at the expense of the US national interest and the wishes of the vast majority of ordinary Americans.

“Five exhaustive studies over the course of 6 years have repeatedly affirmed Keystone XL is safe for the environment and hugely beneficial for the economy,” Cindy Schild, API’s downstream operations senior manager, refining and oil sands, said on Sept. 16.

“By contrast, the administration is ready to move forward after only 120 days of comments on the [US Environmental Protection Agency’s] sweeping proposed rules for power plant emissions—some of the most complex and far-reaching energy regulations ever,” she told reporters during a teleconference.

Her remarks came as US House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders said the House would vote later in the week on a package of energy bills which includes HR 3, the Northern Route Approval Act.

The measure, which committee member Lee Terry (R-Neb.) introduced on Mar. 3, would deem that no presidential permit is required for Keystone XL and that the final environmental impact statement the US Department of State issued on Aug. 26, 2011, satisfies all National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act requirements.

Still important

Schild said Keystone XL is as important now as it was 6 years ago. “New crises overseas make clear the value of securing a stable, reliable supply of energy from our own domestic production and from Canada,” she maintained. “The 830,000 b/d of oil Keystone XL will transport from Canada and the US Bakken region will move the US considerably closer to the ability to supply 100% of our liquid fuels needs from right here in North America within 10 years.”

US public support for the project remains strong, Schild said. “Polling earlier this year found that 70% of voters support building Keystone XL, while 78% agree the pipeline would strengthen America’s economic security, national security, and energy security,” she said. “Sixty-eight percent report they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports approving Keystone XL, including 60% of Democrats.”

The project has been under federal review longer than it took to win World War II, to build the Hoover Dam, or to paint the Sistine Chapel, she said. “If President Obama will not exercise leadership on Keystone XL, Congress must act,” Schild declared.

Other bills in the package the Energy and Commerce Committee approved which Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said will go before the full House later in the week includes:

  • HR 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act, a 2013 bill which Upton and committee member Gene Green (D-Tex.) reintroduced on May 8. It would consolidate and standardize cross-border permit processes for oil and gas pipelines and electricity transmission lines, replacing current processes which were created through multiple executive orders.
  • HR 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, a 2013 bill that committee member Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) reintroduced on July 17. It would require that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approve or deny a requested pipeline certificate within 12 months of a completed application being filed, and codify FERC’s requirement that all relevant agencies approve or deny a permit application within 90 days after FERC’s notice of completion of the final environmental document with the possibility of a 30 day extension for certain situations.
  • And HR 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, which committee members Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Green reintroduced on June 23. It would place a 30-day deadline on the US Department of Energy decision whether a liquefied natural gas export project is in the US national interest once the applicant has completed a NEPA review for the project, and require public disclosure of LNG export destination as an approval condition.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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