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The Week in Keystone XL: Eminent Domain and the Truth about Gas Prices

Every week groups on a state and national level compile news stories and reports about TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. This week, the Republican leaders’ hypocrisy regarding their stance on eminent domain has come to light, the facts about gas prices and energy security around Keystone XL are becoming more prominent, and it appears immediate approval without any further studies on the Keystone XL may not appear in the final transportation bill, thats great news! 

News + Developments:

  • In the GOP’s rabid support for construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, some members seem to have disregarded their fundamental support for property rights and opposition to eminent domain—a position that they made clear following the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London. Among others, Senators Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Hatch (R-UT), and Rubio (R-FL) all publically opposed the Kelo decision and now publically support the Keystone XL pipeline—despite the fact that eminent domain would be used to claim private property in seven states.  Though the hypocrisy has flown under the radar, the public is starting to note the glaring contradiction. Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, notes in Washington Monthly that none of the more adamant detractors of the Kelo decision, who threatened to “seize Justice Souter’s home” to make their point, seem to “ have any problem with the use of eminent domain to build Keystone (any more than they objected to George W. Bush’s use of it to enrich himself and his business partners in the Texas Rangers by seizing private property to build, not merely a stadium, but a shopping mall).”

Kleiman recalls a recent New York Times piece which “points out, in tones of shocked horror, the obvious: Keystone cannot be built without seizing right-of-way by eminent domain.” He continues, “… It’s perfectly consistent to think that eminent-domain powers can be used to complete projects better left unstarted, and also to think that bad projects ought to be blocked on their merits. It’s not quite so consistent to back property rights except when the big energy companies want to confiscate them.”

  • This week, two major national dailies set the record straight on Keystone. The Washington Post, who previously endorsed the pipeline, added an important caveat to their argument: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will not lower gas prices, nor will it lead to energy security, backed up by State Impact Texas, an NPR affiliate. The Post editorials said, “With all the amped-up rhetoric, it is important to remember what the project would not do…In fact,” the piece continues, due to external global factors that impact the market, “the best way to insulate Americans from oil-price volatility and other drawbacks of oil use would be to use less oil.” The New York Times Editorial Board also urged the Senate to again reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, outlining the major risks and minimal benefits of the pipeline. Explaining why Congress should again reject the project, the Editorial Board says, “The benefits, if any, would be minimal. The pipeline would produce at most a few thousand temporary construction jobs — 6,000 according to State Department estimates. The project would do little to reduce gas prices or American dependence on foreign oil, because most of the oil carried through the Keystone XL would be for export.
  • Signs from the transportation conference committee in Congress are beginning to point to the fact that Keystone XL will not be included in the final bill. The Hill’s Ben Geman reported this week that while Republicans, like Senator John Hoeven, are pushing for inclusion of the risky project, they “appear unlikely to draw a line in the sand that jeopardizes the infrastructure legislation.” This story was backed up with a prediction from Rep. Nick Rahall that the Keystone XL pipeline would be dropped from final highway bill. “Rahall, who is on the bicameral panel negotiating on the bill, said interest in jobs tied to other portions of the bill will carry the day. ‘I mean, putting people to work is much more important right now. I’d say in a majority of states, putting people to work by passing this transportation bill is more job than the Keystone pipeline in their states,’ he told reporters.”

Quotes of the Week:

  • “I’d love to see [the Keystone XL project] stopped. I think it’s bad for the United States, bad for the state of Texas, and bad for the people nearby.” – Mike Hawthorne, who manages his family’s 1,200-acre ranch in Wells, Texas
  • “The overall Republican conference position is not to sink the conference report over [Keystone XL], however, as keeping that issue alive through the elections is also acceptable.” An oil industry source for the The Hill

In Case You Missed It:

Voices Against Tar Sands: Real People, Real Stories About How Tar Sands Affects Us – NRDC launched a video project capturing the stories highlighting how Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines, as well as tar sands extraction and refining will have real impacts, on real people, in their own words.

The Great Lakes: New Dumping Ground for Tar Sands Oil – In a new blog from NWFs Beth Wallace highlights news that tar sands pipeline company Enbridge is proposing a major expansion in the U.S. She explains how the company that caused the massive Kalamazoo tar sands spill is planning to avoid federal environmental safety review of the entire replacement project.

Albion pipeline meeting attracts 160-plus – An article in the Columbus Telegram notes the high level of public interest in Nebraska’s hearings on the new proposed route for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

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