BISMARCK, ND – The Obama administration’s decision to delay issuing a Presidential Permit for the already detained Keystone XL is not a surprise to me. Nor am I surprised by TransCanada’s interest in looking at alternative routes for this very important piece of America’s energy security puzzle.
Over one year ago, I began talking to oil producers in the Bakken and pipeline companies looking to link into the proposed Keystone XL at Baker, Montana. I grew so concerned about the likelihood of further delay, that I called TransCanada officials into my office to present an option I felt would be much more politically viable than their chosen route.
My concern was not that extreme environmental activists would successfully hold up the permit. My concern was that Republicans in Nebraska were voicing their objections in a way that would provide President Obama the political cover he needed to do what he was already inclined to do: delay the project.
When the usually level headed Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska was on the same side as the radical Congressman Henry Waxman of California, I knew the project was in trouble.
My proposal to TransCanada was to scrap the route through eastern Montana, the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota and the Sand Hills and Ogallala Aquifer of Nebraska, and instead replace it with a route that follows previously sited corridors, all of which contain pipelines owned by TransCanada.
My alternative does not provide as direct a route from Alberta to Oklahoma as the proposed XL, but the few extra miles would be mitigated by a friendlier political environment along the existing corridors. With Nebraska’s new law authorizing the Governor to force a re-route around the aquifer, the mileage efficiency originally hoped for is lost already.
I was told my proposal was too late, since so many resources had been spent on the chosen route which is shorter and they were too far down the road to change directions. Besides, they were confident Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be signing the Presidential Permit very soon. Now it is a year later, and the administration has placed another delay of at least one year on the project.
I still have the map of my proposed route and am attaching it for public review. My concept is easy. The line could still cross the border into the United States in Montana, but rather than heading southeast toward the northwest corner of South Dakota, it would take a more easterly route toward Williston, North Dakota, following the Northern Border Interstate Gas Line which it would parallel all the way to northeastern South Dakota, where it would intersect with the original TransCanada Keystone Pipeline. From there it would parallel the Keystone all the way to Oklahoma and on to the Gulf Coast.
The advantage of my proposal to North Dakota is that it runs through the heart of the Bakken, providing easy access to a major bullet line all the way to the Gulf Coast, where our sweet crude commands a price 20% higher than West Texas Intermediate (WTI). That’s a lot better than the discount our producers and royalty owners receive today.
While further environmental review would be required, these established corridors have already been thoroughly vetted through Federal Environmental Impact Studies and local and state jurisdictions. There should be established landowner and community relationships along the corridors. This regulatory and relationship efficiency would more than mitigate the costs.
While I may not agree with the state of Nebraska’s objection to the original route as proposed, it is their state, and they are concerned. While I find it ridiculous our President has so little regard for our northern neighbors and so little concern for the millions of unemployed Americans who would love a job building a pipeline, I do not find it productive to sit on the sidelines screaming righteous indignation. While concerned about our growing dependency on dictators for oil and the negative economic impact of the war on fossil fuels launched by the President and his Congressional allies, I offer this alternative route for the Keystone XL in hopes of providing a transportation system for Canadian and North Dakota crude.
My timing may have been late a year ago. It seems perfect today.