In States Along Keystone XL Pipeline Route, Officials And Business Leaders Praise Federal Permit Decision
Elected officials and business leaders from states along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline have welcomed news of the project’s federal approval – some eight years after the permitting process began.
“This is a victory for all of us who rely on oil to heat our homes, fuel our cars, and power our tractors, and pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to transport oil,” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) said after the March 24 announcement from the U.S. State Department.
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) praised the approval of a “critical infrastructure project” and criticized the former Obama administration for putting “politics ahead of job creation and energy development” by trying to block the Keystone XL pipeline. Construction of the pipeline “will translate into added revenue for cash-strapped South Dakota counties, relief on our roads and rails, and job opportunities for folks across our state,” U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) said.
The Obama administration, under pressure from “keep it in the ground” environmental groups, delayed its decision on the Keystone pipeline for years. The Obama White House finally rejected the project in late 2015, just before the start of a high-profile round of United Nations climate talks in Paris.
Supporters of the project were quick to point out the State Department’s environmental impact studies repeatedly found no significant increase in greenhouse gases from the project. The State Department was the lead agency in the permitting process because the pipeline – which would connect major oil fields in Canada with refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast – crosses an international border. Keystone XL supporters also argued that pipelines are a much safer method of transporting oil than by road or rail.
In Nebraska, a state-level permitting process is still underway for the Keystone XL pipeline. The Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC), the state agency in charge of the permitting process, “will conduct a thorough and fair review” of the project and potential pipeline routes, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) said. But the federal approval “is a welcome step forward to securing improved energy infrastructure in Nebraska and nationally, while also creating jobs and ensuring our energy independence,” Ricketts said.
Nebraska Chamber of Commerce President Barry Kennedy said the state’s business community hopes the PSC will quickly grant the final approvals to the pipeline developers. “The Nebraska Chamber fully supports the Keystone XL project because of the benefits it will provide to Nebraska’s families and the state’s economy, as well as America’s long term energy needs,” Kennedy said. “Nebraskans will always be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
The Nebraska chamber cited a number of economic benefits in support of the project. They include an estimated $150 million in new property tax revenue for Nebraska’s local governments over the lifetime of the pipeline and a $300 million increase in personal income for the state’s residents during the construction phase.
As Western Wire has reported, a bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers in Montana have supported the Keystone XL pipeline and called on the federal government to approve the project. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said the State Department’s approval is “a big step towards finally breaking ground” and welcome news for “counties that badly need the tax revenue of this job-creating pipeline.”
Montana’s business community also praised the Trump administration’s decision to approve the pipeline after years of exhaustive review. “With millions of dollars in property tax revenues and a long-term stable supply of North American energy, Keystone XL will also boost our nation’s energy security,” Montana Chamber President Webb Brown said, according to the Williston Herald newspaper in neighboring North Dakota.
The pipeline will also give oil producers in the Bakken Shale, which spans North Dakota and Montana, more options for transporting their product to market. “Subject to commercial demand, Keystone XL will transport domestic U.S crude oil production from the Bakken supply basin in Montana and North Dakota to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast region,” Alan Olson, president of Montana Petroleum Association, told the Herald.
But environmental activists who oppose the project have vowed to keep fighting. Activists with 350.org, a leading group in the “keep it in the ground” coalition, have vowed to “raise hell at the national level,” according to Bloomberg News, and help local allies in the states along the pipeline route. Those allies include an activist group called Bold Nebraska, which hopes to delay the project even further with “two to three years of legal challenges, at least,” the group’s leader Jane Kleeb told Bloomberg.
Anti-Keystone protests in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska are concerning to state and local officials after sometimes violent demonstrations against another oil pipeline project in nearby North Dakota. As Western Wire has previously reported, arrest records show the vast majority of activists protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline were from outside North Dakota. The activists also turned their protest camp on the banks of the Missouri River into a garbage dump that cost more than $1 million to clean up, according to the Washington Times.
Daugaard, the South Dakota governor, said he respected the views of those who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, but also called for restraint. “I hope we will all seek to exercise our First Amendment rights peacefully, and respect the right of others to do likewise,” he said.