Richard Greene

Arguments about the Keystone pipeline should be over by now

Whether following settled science or the broad support of his fellow Americans, President Obama ought to now fully embrace the flow of oil from Canada to the refineries of Texas.

With majorities of about 60 percent in both houses — the most ever on the matter — lawmakers in Washington behaved in accord with what their constituents have wanted for a long time, authorization to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Louisiana Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is expected to lose her seat in next month’s runoff, fell only one vote short in her effort to send the measure to the president’s desk.

Republican leaders promise to do just that when they take control of the Senate in January.

The respected Pew Research Center has consistently found strong backing for the project in its measure of public opinion.

By a more than 2-to-1 majority, the voice of the people is clear: Build the pipeline!

Their most recent national survey found only 27 percent opposed. So, what are we waiting for?

Many in the environmental community would answer with alarmist expressions over harmful impacts they fear would occur to air quality, water resources, damage to the land and more.

Apparently, they reject the thoroughly developed scientific findings that there will be no significant environmental impacts from the construction or operation of the pipeline.

That’s a very interesting position for them, since their mantra is consistently that of insisting that our elected representatives “follow the science.”

Except, I suppose, when it comes to building the pipeline.

These are the same voices that declare anyone rejecting the opinion of scientists in the matter of global warming to be “deniers.”

The compelling question would be, does such a label now fit them?

In case you haven’t had an opportunity to read the 11-volume final environmental impact statement prepared by the State Department, allow me a brief description of the analysis that began six years ago.

The environmental review, perhaps the most extensive such undertaking of all time, included the participation of 12 federal agencies and various state and local entities along the proposed route of the pipeline.

All-encompassing analyses were made of what would happen to water resources, endangered species, geology and soils, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, land use, air quality and noise, cultural resources and the cumulative effects of all the above.

The thoroughly documented conclusion: “[T]he analyses of potential impacts associated with construction and operation of the proposed Project suggest that there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed Project corridor.”

The report describes greater environmental and safety risks from not building the pipeline, as the oil would still be transported by alternative means such as ocean tankers, rail and trucks.

That reality should also resolve the argument over carbon releases and the impact of the pipeline on climate change.

It won’t, but it should.

The oil is going to be used by somebody, somewhere in the world. The extent of emissions, wherever they occur, is a rounding error when measured against the annual total of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

What we do know from the report is that the project will produce 42,000 construction jobs and serve the interests of our national security by acquiring oil from a friendly source and significantly reducing our reliance on oil from the Middle East.

The result is a golden opportunity for the president to do what is in our national interests, cooperate with Congress and settle at least one of the matters on the list of things that need to be accomplished in what remains of his time in the White House.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. mayorgreene@mayorgreene.com

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