President Obama announced he was rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline project Wednesday, blaming Republicans in Congress for forcing him to make a decision. The pipeline would have transported up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Oklahoma and Texas.
“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama said in a statement. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision.”
Below is a comprehensive timeline of the project, providing details about major actions over the past 40 months from the time the State Department first received the application.
Sept. 19, 2008: The State Department receives an application from TransCanada to build the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, and announces that it will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Jan. 1 – June 1, 2009: State conducts 20 “scoping meetings” to explore the issues that should be addressed in the EIS, and consults with federal and state agencies and Indian tribes impacted by the pipeline.
April 16, 2010: State releases its draft EIS, which finds that the Keystone pipeline would have “limited adverse environmental impacts during both construction and operation.” This finding would be supported by subsequent environmental assessments by the department. The draft report also notes that, in the absence of the pipeline, “crude oil would likely be shipped to countries outside of North America, which would require new infrastructure that would result in environmental impacts at least as great as those of the proposed project.”
April 16 – Sept. 1, 2010: The department solicits comments on the proposed pipeline, twice extending the comment period due to the volume of submissions it receives. After receiving nearly 1,800 verbal and written comments, State ends the comment period at the request of federal agencies.
June 2010: Meetings held in Texas and Washington, D.C., in response to public comments.
Sept. 14, 2010: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Union of Operating Engineers endorse the pipeline, marking the beginning of a rare political alliance that pits supporters of increased energy production and labor unions against environmental groups.
Oct. 15, 2010: Asked about the Keystone XL pipeline at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says “we are inclined” to approve the project.
Oct. 25, 2010: The general presidents of four major labor unions representing more than 2.5 million workers urge the State Department to approve the pipeline.
Dec. 7, 2010: State hosts meetings between Indian tribes and federal officials in Washington to address concerns about the pipeline.
Jan. 1, 2011: TransCanada, Keystone’s parent company, agrees to 57 safety measures relating to the construction, operation and design of the pipeline. The measures were a joint creation of the State Department and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
March 6, 2011: In a show of bipartisanship, Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (AK), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Max Baucus (MT), join 11 of their Republican colleagues in endorsing the pipeline. “Now more than ever, it is critical that this country move forward with this project,” they write in a letter to Clinton.
April 15, 2011: State releases a supplemental draft EIS, which, it notes, “does not alter the conclusions” reached by its initial statement a year earlier.
April 15 – June 6, 2011: State opens another comment period following its supplemental draft EIS, soliciting a whopping 280,000 public comments.
May 23, 2011: Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) introduces the North American-Made Energy Security Act, which would force the president to make a decision on the Keystone pipeline by Nov. 1, 2011.
July 25, 2011: The White House releases a “Statement of Administration Policy” calling Terry’s bill unnecessary, since State “has publicly committed to reaching a decision” before year’s end.
July 26, 2011: The House passes Terry’s bill by voice vote. It never receives Senate consideration.
Aug. 26, 2011: State releases its final EIS, which supports moving ahead with the pipeline. The department “does not regard the No Action Alternative to be preferable to the proposed Project,” it states. Among its key findings:
- Construction of the pipeline would not affect fossil fuel demand – which it noted is expected to grow substantially over the next 10 years – meaning its absence would not contribute to the president’s “green energy” agenda, which involves compelling consumers to seek alternatives to fossil fuels;
- The “No Action Alternative” would lead to increased American imports of oil from nations that “are not secure and reliable sources of crude oil, including the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and South America”;
- If unable to import oil through the Keystone pipeline, Canadian producers would simply seek other customers using alternative methods of transportation.
Aug. 26 – Oct. 9, 2011: State conducts its National Interest Determination, soliciting public comments and holding meetings in six states and Washington, D.C.
Oct. 20, 2011: Continuing the labor movement’s support for the project, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers states, “the Keystone project will put thousands back to work and have ripple benefits throughout the North American economy. Our members look forward to being part of this historic project and pledge to deliver the highest quality work to make it a success.”
Nov. 10, 2011: President Obama announces he is delaying the project “in light of additional information gleaned from consultations with Nebraska state and local officials as well as public comments.” Citing concerns over the pipeline’s effects on the Sand Hills region, Obama questions whether the pipeline “is in the national interest.” The president makes clear that no decision will be made on Keystone before the 2012 election.
Nov. 14, 2011: TransCanada announces that it has reached an agreement with Nebraska officials on an alternate pipeline route through the state, which avoids the Sand Hills region.
Nov. 22, 2011: Nebraska enacts a law codifying a process for approving the route and directing the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to cooperate with State in moving it forward.
Nov. 30 – Dec. 15, 2011: Keystone receives support from numerous Senate Democrats, including Baucus, Jon Tester (MT), Kent Conrad (ND), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Joe Manchin (WV).
Dec. 13, 2011: Steel pipe manufacturer Welspun Tubular announces that it had to lay off 60 employees as a result of the delays in permit approval for the Keystone pipeline.
Dec. 23, 2011: The House and Senate unanimously approve and Obama signs the payroll tax bill, which requires the president to approve or deny the Keystone permit within 60 days.
Jan. 18, 2012: Obama announces he is denying the Keystone XL permit, and cites inadequate environmental examination.
Jan. 19, 2012: Reports indicate that Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper is looking to sell crude to China in light of Obama’s Keystone XL rejection.