Saturday, January 10, 2015

Alberta Premier Prentice praises Nebraska court decision on Keystone XL

The premier of Alberta said that the Nebraska Supreme Court ruling which vacated a district court judgment that a law determining how the route would be determined was unconstitutional, helped move the approval process forward.

The premier, Jim Prentice, said that the political process of approving the project is still far from over: “I think it remains to be seen how this plays out in the United States. From my perspective, the project should be approved. It will create jobs, it’s an environmentally defensible project, it’s supported by the American people. I think my role as the premier of Alberta is to be in Washington to ensure that the facts are clear, to speak to the environmental record of Alberta as a jurisdiction." Prentice intends to go to Washington in February to lobby in favor of approval for the project.
 During the period when the Nebraska Supreme Court was considering the lawsuit case brought by Nebraska landowners the US State Department review of the pipeline project had been paused. The review will now continue. When the review is finished and a recommendation made to Obama, he will make the final decision as to whether the pipeline will be built. In the new Congress, Republicans control both the House and the Senate. The Republicans have already passed legislation through the House that approves construction of Keystone XL. Obama threatens to veto any bill passed that favors the project. Keystone XL is part of a larger project that will deliver oil from the Alberta Tar Sands and other areas as far as refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas.
 The CEO of Trans-Canada, the company building the project, Russ Girling, expressed pleasure at the Nebraska decision: "It removes what we believe is the stated reason for the delay in the presidential approval process. Now, hopefully that process can pick up where it left off. We would hope that we can get on with an approval in a very short timeframe." While some have said that lower oil prices make the project less attractive or even needed, Girling took the opposite position claiming that the low prices made it more necessary to find a more efficient and cheaper alternative to rail transportation as the pipeline would be. More pressure will be put on Obama to ensure the review is completed quickly and a decision made. Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, said it was time to start building: "President Obama is now out of excuses for blocking the Keystone pipeline and the thousands of American jobs it would create." 
While Prentice and Trans-Canada executives praised the Nebraska ruling, Randy Thompson who was lead plaintiff in the case in the lower court expressed disappointment at the ruling. The ruling was close with four of seven judges agreeing with the lower court that the law in question was unconstitutional. A super-majority majority was needed to support the lower court ruling. Thompson said: "This has been tremendously upsetting for landowners in this process and the fact that political leaders have just tried to kick our butts along with TransCanada has been tremendously disappointing. It's time for the president to put an end to this damn thing, let us get back to our lives, get back to raising food for America." 
 Some political observers think that Obama might be open to a deal on the Keystone including Ryan Lizza writing in the New Yorker. He speculates that the Republicans who control both houses might be willing to trade something that Obama wants in return for his not vetoing approval of Keystone. Obama could request a carbon tax or a large infrastructure project, or alternative measures to help the environment or advance alternative energy production. Lizza claims: From the White House’s perspective, the Keystone XL pipeline should be an ideal policy to give away in a trade: it’s a major issue that Republicans care a great deal about but one that Obama seems to view as a sideshow. A Senate bill to approve the Keystone XL passed a key Senate committee, on Thursday. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill by a vote of 13 to 9.

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