Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, released a statement Tuesday that lauded the governor’s approval, saying it moves the process “one step closer to Americans receiving the benefits of Keystone XL – the enhanced energy security it will provide and the thousands of jobs it will create.” The company, Mr. Girling also writes, added 57 special conditions to ensure the safety of the pipeline, including additional data sensors, remote-controlled shut-off valves, inspections, and maintenance.
The backing of Nebraska’s governor is seen as putting Obama in a tougher bind over a decision expected to receive heavy criticism either way. Environmental opponents view the pipeline as dangerous because it would carry oil extracted from Canada’s region of oil sands, which produce up to 30 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil. There are also worries about potential spills in the nation’s most sensitive agricultural terrain.
Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, says the “two steps the Obama administration can make today to combat global warming would be to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and take measures to cut carbon pollution from power plants.” That, she adds, “would allow the US to make a serious dent to reduce carbon pollution ... while preventing more production of the dirtiest oil on the planet.”
Indeed, in his inauguration speech Monday, the president signaled a renewed interest in protecting what he described a “our natural treasure – our forests and waterways, our croplands and snowcapped peaks.” He also said, “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”
Supporters of the Keystone XL say the pipeline would generate thousands of jobs and unprecedented construction and property-tax revenues in states that could certainly benefit. To such advocates, Heineman’s support now makes Obama’s approval a “no-brainer,” says Richard Dunbar, a commissioner of Phillips County in Montana, the proposed location of the pipeline’s first substation. Mr. Dunbar says the pipeline would generate about $5 million in annual property-tax revenues for his county.