The Obama administration will likely soon announce that the State Department will consider an alternative route for the Keystone XL Pipeline. If that happens, it will likely delay any decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 election. From USA Today:
The State Department is preparing to announce its decision that it will explore a new route for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline , according to three sources knowledgeable of the administration’s thinking.
“They’ll be punting the decision to explore rerouting,” said a Congressional source, who was not authorized to comment on the State Department’s impending announcement. “They believe the rerouting exploration should be completed by the first quarter of 2013.”
The fact that the Obama administration is at least delaying the decision is a partial victory for environmentalists and grassroots activism. The delay proves massive protests and civil disobedience can have an impact on those in power. Getting a President to even delay plans to approve a huge project proposed by big oil is a monumental feat.
Given the concerns about potential health and safety risks to the Agallala aquifer over which the current route would pass, there are compelling, legitimate reasons to consider alternative routes. Unfortunately, this move may only punt a decision to approve the pipeline until after the election. It strongly feels like an act of pure political cynicism from President Obama, instead of a sincere response to the concerns of regular Americans.
Once Obama gets young environmentalists to vote for him in 2012, and he no longer needs to worry about facing the voters again, I suspect he plans to quickly approve the pipeline with a slightly different route, ignoring all other environmental concerns.
I do have to give credit to Bill McKibben for one thing. Just like GetEQUAL before him with DADT, McKibben has shown that the only thing that moves this White House even modestly to the left is progressives being willing to directly confront Obama and embarrass him.
Update: Statement from Bill McKibben, at tarsandsaction.org