Washington, D.C. The 1,711-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline, protested by longtime Johnsburg resident and current Middlebury college scholar-in-residence Bill McKibben, was denied approval Jan. 18.
“It's a rare day when scientists are left smiling and big oil scowling, but this is one of those days,” said McKibben. “And it's a tribute to all who worked so hard around the country.”
Department of State Assistant Secretary Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones noted in a conference call that energy security is still of vital importance to the U.S.
“This decision today doesn’t make our commitment to energy independence and energy security any less of a priority,” she said.
The reason for the denial, said President Barack Obama, was a deadline imposed on the pipeline decision by a tax act in the federal government. There was too little time to review the pipeline issues, including its crossing of the Nebraska Sandhills and an important aquifer there.
TransCanada, the company looking to build the pipeline connecting Alberta, Canada to Texas, plans to reapply with adjustments in the pipe’s route.
“I think it's a big win,” said McKibben. “It's true that TransCanada, or anyone else, can reapply, but they'll have to go back to square one. It will take a long time, and the review will be careful.”
Jones said a reapplication wouldn’t be expedited, that it would be reviewed as a completely new application.
“It’s important for us to look at the whole pipeline and not to really move forward on such a major infrastructure project that will be a part of the country and the landscape for many years in pieces like that.”
Because the pipeline crosses an international border, it requires presidential approval or denial, which is why the Department of State was involved.
An executive summary on the pipeline noted that Gulf of Mexico refinery production will soon face greater demands, and high-capacity pipelines will soon be needed. The Keystone XL could carry 830,000 barrels of oil daily at maximum capacity.
TransCanada said the pipeline is a job-creating proposition in a down economy, and they have labor agreements with seven labor unions for thousands of construction jobs.