William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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TRUTH-TELLING TIME – AT 9:50 A.M. ET:  One decision on the president's desk is whether to approve the Keystone Pipeline from Canada.  In sane times this would be a no-brainer.  These are not sane times.  The pipeline would be a major asset to both the U.S. and Canada, two nations the president doesn't like.  It would link Canada's oil fields with the Gulf Coast. 

Obama held back approval during the campaign to satisfy the environmental religionists among his base, and encourage their contributions.  One excuse given was that environmental concerns weren't met.  Well, now we have a different situation.  From Investor's Business Daily:

The further review the administration said was needed is done, with a Nebraska environmental agency saying it's safe to build the pipeline that will bring oil, jobs and revenue from our friendly northern neighbor.

After kicking the Canadian oil barrel down the road, the Obama administration may soon be forced to approve the Keystone XL pipeline or come up with another excuse to block it after a report from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality declared it would have "minimal environmental impacts" on the state and its sensitive aquifers.

Friday's report triggered a 30-day deadline for Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, to make a final recommendation to the U.S. government on whether to go forward with the pipeline. Keystone XL will still need final approval from the State Department because its northern portion crosses an international boundary.

The $5.3 billion northern segment will run 850 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Neb., carrying up to 700,000 barrels of crude a day initially and up to 830,000 barrels a day after planned pumping upgrades.

TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the project, has already started construction on the $2.3 billion southern segment, calling it the Gulf Coast Project, which will run from Cushing, Okla., to Nederland, Texas.
The revised pipeline route, altered from the original, curves east of Nebraska's ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region but would still cross the Ogallala Aquifer, a source of drinking water and irrigation.

Environmentalists say the pipeline would endanger the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska and other states along the route. They ignore the fact that 50,000 existing miles of pipeline already crisscross the U.S., including Nebraska.

Before President Obama, to placate his environmentalist supporters in his re-election bid, pushed the pipeline decision to 2013, the State Department had already concluded a three-year study that found the pipeline to not be an environmental threat.

COMMENT:  It's hard to predict what Obama might do.  So far, virtually all indicators are that he will run a contentious, radical second term, so I wouldn't be surprised if he turns down the pipeline.  That would hand the Republicans a major issue, if they have any idea what to do with a major issue.

Stand by on this one.

January 9, 2013