No one expects the wheels of government to move fast. Washington’s pace can easily be compared to Beltway traffic in the morning: gridlock that is intermittently interrupted by small bursts of movement. The public may be frustrated by the lack of movement in Congress, but the Obama Administration has done its fair share of dragging its feet, particularly in regard to our nation’s energy future.
Proposed energy development and infrastructure projects now take multiple years for the federal government to review and permit. Similar projects may have only taken several months to complete in past Administrations, both Democrat and Republican. These delays are not unintended. The Obama Administration has demonstrated that it can and will delay a project by extending or adding layers of unnecessary reviews. By doing so, officials within the Administration believe that they can dodge taking a public position on projects that are supported by key labor allies and opposed by key environmental allies.
Nowhere is this pattern of obstruction more clear than with Keystone XL and Atlantic offshore drilling. September 19th will mark five years since TransCanada submitted its original application to build the Keystone XL pipeline to the Department of State. Since then, the State Department has issued three draft Environmental Impact Statements (plus two supplemental drafts) and held at least five public comment periods, including more than a dozen public hearings along the pipeline route and in Washington. Despite five years of regulatory review, a decision on the project is still outstanding – and probably won’t be before 2014. Canada, on the other hand, approved its portion of Keystone XL in March 2010.
It is telling to compare this process with the permitting process for TransCanada’s originalKeystone pipeline – which runs from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in the Midwest and to Cushing, Oklahoma and has been in operation since 2010. The 2,151 miles-long Keystone currently transports approximately 590,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude to U.S. refineries and required only 23 months for President Bush’s State Department to review and permit. Although Keystone and Keystone XL are very similar projects and should have similar review timelines, the State Department has already spent an extra 37 months reviewing Keystone XL.