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Obama’s Useless Keystone Review

The good news is that President Obama will announce his plan to expedite the review process for the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline at a campaign stop in Cushing, Oklahoma. The bad news is that it will have absolutely no impact on the timeline for pipeline construction, which was already on track to begin as early as June:

TransCanada’s president of energy and oil pipelines, Alex Pourbaix, said in an interview March 6 that construction on the Cushing phase of Keystone could begin as soon as June. The company doesn’t expect the new review process to change that schedule, Cunha said yesterday. …

Since the Cushing phase doesn’t cross an international border, it doesn’t require permission from the U.S. Department of State and president, as the full project did. Nonetheless, the Obama administration immediately endorsed TransCanada’s Cushing plan and released a statement in February saying the White House will “take every step possible to expedite the necessary federal permits.”

So Obama is endorsing a portion of the Keystone pipeline that doesn’t even need his consent for construction, while refusing to approve the only part of the pipeline that actually needs State Department permission. In other words, he’s shuffling around a lot of papers and trying to make it look like he’s doing something.

It sounds like the only reason the southern portion of the Keystone pipeline is slated for construction so soon is because the Obama administration’s permission wasn’t necessary in the first place. Of course, now that rising gas prices are cutting into the president’s poll numbers, he’s gratuitously intervening in a project that was already progressing along nicely – and will no doubt try to claim credit for its speedy progress.

House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck said it best: “The approval needed for this leg of the project is so minor and routine that only a desperate administration would inject the president of the United States into the process. This is like the governor holding a press conference to renew my driver’s license — except this announcement still leaves American energy and jobs behind.”