NPR misleading people about Obama and Keystone

NPR is making the argument that Obama killed the Keystone, not because of the merits, but because of a technicality. Here’s what they claim:

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: Well, President Obama said in a statement that the rushed and arbitrary deadline set by Congress didn’t give his administration any other choice. This is a $7 billion project that’s been years in the making and there was a hitch last year when Nebraska said it didn’t want the pipeline to go through an important aquifer. The company agreed to find another route through that state and it hasn’t done that yet, so the administration can’t finish its review of the project.

If the administration had approved the permit in its unfinished state, the decision would have been vulnerable to legal challenges.

SIEGEL: So if today’s announcement by the Obama administration is rejecting the pipeline more on procedural than substantive grounds, that would not be the kind of firm ideological rejection that, say, the environmental movement was hoping for.

SHOGREN: That’s right. The administration said they weren’t rejecting the permit on its merits. The State Department said the Canadian company can reapply or other companies can apply for a pipeline. TransCanada has been saying that it is – TransCanada is the company that’s behind this pipeline – they’ve been saying it’s very committed to this project. They’ve sunk a lot of money into it and I can’t imagine that they’re going to be easily deterred.

The company wasn’t ready to go ahead with the project now anyways since it’s still looking for a route through Nebraska and it doesn’t expect to have that new route until the fall.

Now this is interesting. The question for me is, did Keystone agree to find another route?

Doing a little research, I find that NPR is wrong and that is in fact not the case, according to the Daily Nebraskan. It was actually Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality that was tasked by the legislature with finding a new route for the pipeline, not TransCanada. And it seems that either they aren’t in a big hurry or the Obama administration is holding them up:

Late last year, Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality was handed a big, new job: find another route for TransCanada’s Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Nebraska Legislature made the decision in a special session after months of controversy over the original route, which crossed the state’s Sandhills on its way from Canada’s oil sands to refineries in Texas. The department, the state government declared, would work with the federal government and TransCanada to reroute the pipeline around the ecologically sensitive and groundwater-rich area.

But despite that success in negotiation, for now, the DEQ is essentially sitting on its hands. Doubt and political tension now clouds the project’s future, and whether the pipeline will survive seems to depend on who’s asked.

“We’re proceeding with our part of the process,” said Jim Bunstock, spokesman for the department. That includes assembling a small, internal team of geologists, water management experts and others that will use both satellites and eyes to judge the route, he added.

However, they can’t get to what Bunstock called the “meat of the project” and actually find a pipeline path until the U.S. State Department releases its master formula for the teamwork, called a memorandum of understanding, and TransCanada submits its ideas for the route.

“We’re still waiting on that to come about,” Bunstock said.

So it looks like the Obama administration isn’t doing their part to help the state of Nebraska find a new route for the pipeline. Imagine that. So all this talk about why Obama is rejecting it, including from himself, doesn’t appear to be true at all.

Here’s what Heritage says about the ‘Aquifer argument’ made by opponents:

Environmentalists and opponents of the pipeline are blaming Republicans for forcing the President to make a decision that he was not ready to make (purportedly because additional environmental review was necessary), but this accusation is laughable. DOS has already conducted a thorough, three-year environmental review with multiple comment periods.

DOS studied and addressed risk to soil, wetlands, water resources, vegetation, fish, wildlife, and endangered species. They concluded that the construction of the pipeline would pose minimal environmental risk. Keystone XL also met 57 specific pipeline safety standard requirements created by DOS and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The pipeline would be equipped with 16,000 sensors connected to satellite that would monitor the pressure of the pipeline.

Much of the concern of environmentalists and Nebraska residents has focused on the original route of the pipeline, particularly the area where the pipeline would cross the Ogallala Aquifer—despite the fact that thousands of miles of pipeline already cross the aquifer today and DOS’s impact statement rated the potential for water contamination as minimal. Oil contamination of drinking water would not be likely in many instances because the soil composition prevents or mitigates the downward migration of oil. Simply put, this pipeline is environmentally sound, and even DOS has said so. Making excuses that we need additional environmental review is catering to special interests.

So if you hear these arguments being parroted by your friends because they went to NPR and got misinformation, now you know how to correct them.

Comment Policy: Please read our comment policy before making a comment. In short, please be respectful of others and do not engage in personal attacks. Otherwise we will revoke your comment privileges.