President Obama strung along TranCanada, the corporation that applied to build the Keystone Pipeline XL, for seven years–until it was safe to side with the radical environmentalists without paying any price.
It seems likely in retrospect that the president was always going to deny TransCanada, but being dangled for seven years cost the company billions of dollars. Now TransCanada wants its money back and plans to take the denial before a North American Free Trade Agreement arbitration panel. TransCanada is seeking $15 billion to pay for losses and lost opportunity costs.
TransCanada claims that the permit was denied for purely political reasons and that the U.S. failed in its Nafta agreement to treat investors fairly. The Wall Street Journal seems sanguine about the justice of their cause:
The damning evidence is the Obama’s Administration’s own paper trail. TransCanada had good reason to believe its permit would be approved when it applied in 2008. In its filings with the Nafta tribunal, the company says U.S. policy at the time was “to expedite the development of energy production and transmission projects, including oil pipelines.” That policy, expressed in an executive order, remains in place today.
In 2008 and 2009, permits for the Keystone I pipeline and the Alberta Clipper pipeline were approved within 27 months. Gulf Coast refineries relied on crude from Venezuela, an anti-American dictatorship. By making it possible to substitute Canadian oil for Venezuela’s, the Keystone XL was in the U.S. national interest, the key permitting requirement.
TransCanada says it “consulted extensively” with the State Department about the “viability of the project.” It also paid $25 million so State could hire a third-party to do an environmental-impact study. In April 2010, State issued a draft statement from that study, concluding that the pipeline would have few adverse effects on the environment or greenhouse-gas emissions. In October 2010 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said State was “inclined” to give the project a green light.
The “final” environmental statement in August 2011 echoed the draft. In November 2011 State said the only hold-up to the permit was the proposed routing through Nebraska, where the pipeline had become controversial. Yet when an alternate route was proposed, State still didn’t approve the permit.
TransCanada says the U.S. assured the company that the January 2012 denial “was procedural and not a decision on the merits.” So the company continued to invest in the pipeline and filed a second application to include an alternate Nebraska route.
Defeating the Keystone Pipeline became a cause celebre for the green lobby. If President Obama ever entertained the possibility of giving the project an okay, he backed down when the extreme environmentalists made it their top cause.
It should be noted that Keystone was one of the most-studied projects in history–the administration's tactic was always to demand one more study–and it was consistently found that the environmental impact would not be significant.
TransCanada may ultimately get some of its own back:
The political mugging [of the Obama administration] damaged the U.S. reputation for welcoming investment, and now it could also cost U.S. taxpayers.
The editorial quotes President Obama as having said, “If Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it." I love that condescending "if Congress is serious."
Guess who, as it turns out, was never serious.