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The president leads on Keystone XL

November 30, 2011 - Mike Maneval
A mid-November decision by the Obama administration to postpone a final decision of the viability of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada through the U.S. to the Gulf Coast, is prudent and sensible. In a statement revealing the decision from President Barack Obama, concerns for public health and public safety proceeded concern for potential environmental impact.

The decision allows authorities to contemplate an alternate route for the pipeline's course to avoid proximity to the Ogallala Reservoir in Nebraska. David Lemon and Jim Efstathiou, reporting for, note the reservoir serves about 1.5 million people, and many of the environmentalists who oppose the pipeline plans have cited risks to the reservoir as a principal shortcoming of the concept.

In the wake of Obama's decision, the CEO of TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline proposal, promptly changed his tune, saying TransCanada was "confident Keystone XL will ultimately be approved," according to BusinessWeek. Earlier, CEO Russ Girling had said any delays could "kill" the project, in all likelihood as a ploy to rush the project's development without careful deliberation of its potential consequences.

Of course, House Speaker John Boehner and Thomas Donohue, the top lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doubled down, completely disregarding the bi-partisan concerns expressed by Nebraska's Republican governor over the initial proposed route and calling it a "threat to drinking-water supplies," in the words of Lemon and Efstathiou. Boehner and Donohue blasted the decision as political appeasement of environmentalists. Never mind, as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein documented, that the U.S. has more drilling rigs under the Obama administration than it had under presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush.

In this matter, the President is showing reasonable, nuanced leadership, while his opponents are ignoring reality for cheap political grandstanding.


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