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Keystone XL Is Back On the Table--For Now

George Zornick
NationofChange / News Report
Published: Saturday 17 December 2011
Obama said at a press conference this month that “Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut, I will reject.” That clearly was an empty threat, since he plans to sign this bill on Monday when the House will presumably approve it.
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Early Saturday morning, the Senate passed the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011, which extends a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for two more months—while requiring that the Obama administration make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within the same time period.  

In November, President Obama delayed the Keystone decision until at least January 2013, while alternate routes around Nebraska were considered. But this bill requires a decision with 60 days. Here’s a summary of the provision:

Sec. 501 Keystone XL Pipeline Permitting Process (no cost)

Within 60 days, the President, acting through the Secretary of State, is required to grant a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline project application unless he determines the pipeline would not serve the national interest. Any permit issued shall require the reconsideration of routing the pipeline within the State of Nebraska. Any permit granted is deemed to satisfy all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and any modification required by the Secretary to the construction mitigation and reclamation plan shall not require supplementation of the final environmental impact statement.

So this will require Obama to make a final permitting decision by mid-February, while still allowing for a potential reroute around Nebraska, where the Republican governor there has opposed the project.

Obama said at a press conference this month that “Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut, I will reject.” That clearly was an empty threat, since he plans to sign this bill on Monday when the House will presumably approve it. In brief remarks at the White House this morning, Obama lauded passage of the tax relief and did not mention the Keystone provision at all.

So how likely is it that Keystone XL is ultimately approved? It’s hard to tell, since the White House hasn’t said a word, but many environmentalists inside and outside Congress believe this makes a rejection more likely.

“The deal passed by the Senate rushes the pipeline review process, making a credible, science-based review impossible. Because of this, and the great harm we already know the pipeline would cause, President Obama has no choice but to reject the pipeline,” said a statement this morning from Friends of the Earth.

Representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, both stalwart environmentalists, told Politico yesterday before the bill was passed that they weren’t overly concerned.

 “I think it's shortsighted for the Republicans to force a decision without giving the president enough time to fully consider it,” said Waxman, the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “And if they force him to do that, it'd seem to me, the only logical thing for him to do is to say no to it."

Markey agreed. “We expect the president to still reject the commencement of the construction of the pipeline until there is a full completion of an environmental review,” he said. “The 60-day deadline should not lead to the White House approving the actual construction to begin.”

In that interview, Waxman revealed the only signal from the White House about its intentions that I’m aware of—Waxman held up his BlackBerry and said “The White House has just sent me an email saying, ‘Don’t worry.’”

Pipeline opponents surely do have more to worry about today than they did last week—but Keystone XL approval is far from certain.

This story originally appeared in The Nation.
Copyright © The Nation – distributed by Agence Global.

ABOUT George Zornick

George grew up in Buffalo, NY and holds a B.A. in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Prior to joining The Nation, George was Senior Reporter/Blogger for He worked as a researcher for Michael Moore's SiCKO and as an Associate Producer on "The Media Project" on the Independent Film Channel. His work has been published in The Los Angeles Times, Media Matters, and The Buffalo News.

thepiffler's picture

Absolutely, I am for a big

Absolutely, I am for a big push with the Green Party, whose platform rejects absolutely big corp Citizens United against us and their $$. What more can anyone ask for in this co-opted regime? I have been a Democrat most of my life, but they no longer for farmers or labor, they serve the elite as their stint in D.C has enabled them to become members of the millionaires and the 1%

The republicans would not

The republicans would not have passed that language if the didn't think there was a big stick, like another continuing appropriation, to make Obama sign. I especially dislike the no supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a route bypassing NE. That says a route through Colorado is the same as one through Iowa. Bad move.

DUANE ALFORD's picture

This is easy,VETO it &

This is easy,VETO it & prosecute the oil execs.

Once again, Congress resorts

Once again, Congress resorts to hostage-taking. The Social Security tax rate could be lowered permanantly by simply eliminating the $106,800 cap, so that upper income taxpayers pay the same percentage of income as everyone else. If the pipeline is too dirty for Nebraska, it is too dirty for anywhere else in the country.

First of all, the Social

First of all, the Social Security "tax cut" accomplishes little more than undermining the long-term financial stability of the Social Security system. And, of course, there is an excellent chance that Obama will cave and sign onto the Keystone XL deal. After all, the Republicans want it, his girl Hillary wants it, and "caving" is what the O-man does best!

Waxman held up his BlackBerry

Waxman held up his BlackBerry and said “The White House has just sent me an email saying, ‘Don’t worry.’”

First he was going to veto the NDAA, but changed his mind.

Then he was going to reject any bill that required Keystone, but then he changed his mind.

Waxman has got to be crazy to let himself appear so naive that he pretend to believe that he has nothing to worry about.

As was said by a pundit about Obama after his claim that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, "The President ought not say things that he knows are untrue. Nothing good can come of that."

I have already decided that Obama's failure to veto the NDAA will make it impossible for me to vote for him in 2012. There may be nobody to vote for, but I cannot vote for the man that allowed the destruction of our civil liberties.

@gmh - But the pledge idea is

@gmh - But the pledge idea is excellent.

@GMH - "if he wants to get

@GMH - "if he wants to get re-elected he has to say no" alas, I don't think he sees it that way. Here, and on Truthout, etc etc, we know how bad the Keystone project is - but many don't, and he knows they don't. And even construction unions are tending to approve it - it's a hugely dangerous moment, folks.

Oh, I do hope I'm wrong -I don' t want to say "I told you so" in a a couple of months, but....

As I see it the decision is

As I see it the decision is all on Obama. If he wants oil company campaign money he has to say yes to Keystone, if he wants to get re-elected he has to say no. He used his daughters as a reason to over ride the FDA on plan B being open for all females. He should use them now also. After all his saying yes to Keystone has a very big impact on the children and the future children. of this world, his included.

It's time for the 99% to sign a pledge, simply put yes and you don't get my vote. As to the Republicans it's time for all of us to start putting massive pressure on them. Call them, say no we don't want the pipeline. Regardless if you're in their district or not, call them. Write them, even if it's just an envelope or a post card saying "NO Keystone Pipeline". Start calling the governors of the states these republicans are in, the mayors. Really put the pressure on...start showing these jerks that the 99% are boss. Look what #Occupy did.

DUANE ALFORD's picture

How naive of you,to believe

How naive of you,to believe repubs are listening to the people any repub President will say yes,without the necessary info Obama will veto it,Plan B, 17 & older are still able to make the purchase over the counter,but this is what people should know

I think Waxman, Marley, and

I think Waxman, Marley, and Friends of the Earth are wrong not be worried by this. They think that since he is forced to make a decision early it has to be a rejection. Obama has a lousy record of standing up to right-wing / industry pressure when he judges the issue is low enough in PUBLIC consciousness - not just activists - that he can get away with the cave.

I would not be surprised to see a statement like "Although time for more extensive reviews would be ideal, I feel that if the main issue of the Oglala aquifer is resolved by re-routing, then this jobs-creating project should go ahead to help lessen our dependence on Middle Eastern oil" - what in the advertising industry we used to call "weasel words" when I was in it long ago. And full of factual errors - but how does the Fox-News watching population know that?

Again, "WE, the people" get

Again, "WE, the people" get sold down the river.
We just HAVE to get rid of this president and all the GOP members of Congress. We REALLY need a strong Independent to run - and I DO NOT MEAN Trump!

Rocky Anderson is running on "The Justice Party" ticket.

oh no will pipe line be

oh no will pipe line be approved ahd warren buffet lose $ stay tuned

For me, it's simple: if Obama

For me, it's simple: if Obama follows through with earlier signals that he would not support the pipeline, he's got my vote. If he caves, then I swear I'll vote for Ron Paul. At least he is consistent and doesn't seem to play games.

Obama is doing what obama

Obama is doing what obama does best,caving in to the Rethugs.For a lousy 2 mopnths tax breaks he sold us out again.We at least got 1 year for unemployment for letting OBama and the Rethugs destroy government by renewing the Bush tax cuts.Environmentalist quoted in this article are seriously stupid if they think as stated that this means a quick vetoe of the pipeline.Obama promised the Bush tax cuts would be revisited if he surrendered on the tax cuts.hasn't happened yet

Thank you, The

Thank you, The Nation.

Sincerely, we do appreciate you work. However, we are tired of just “reading” about the problems and waiting for Obama to get some balls (duh).


We first lost our jobs, then our savings, and are now losing our homes.
We cannot feed our families and cannot keep them healthy and safe.
We have been hurt enough. Dialog, debate, discussion, compromise, education, peaceful protesting, and even voting, has NOT worked!

Wall Street, the 1%, the Tea Party, and corporate fat cats have become a gang of bullies.
Their unlimited cash buys votes, corrupts, and overpowers any positive initiative.
You can never appease a bully. A bully wants more, and more, and finally…everything.
You have to hurt a bully back…so badly, that he fears YOU!

C’mon Americans, OWS, the 99%, middle class, and forgotten’s time to get mean dog fighting mad! Passivity is NOT working! Are we sheep? Are we going to let these bullies continue to hurt our families? Are we supposed to just lie down and die?
Hell no! (Not loud enough) HELL NO!

So, Fox News, Wall Street, fat cats, right wing nuts…we will take your advice to develop clear demands, strategies, and new battle tactics against your continuing class warfare.
Are we still obscure?



Narcissists lie all the time.

Narcissists lie all the time.

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