President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline last week proved the President's commitment to the environment and to the health and safety of the American people, as well as his refusal to play political games with America's future.
The pipeline, built for tar sands oil, would have traveled from Canada through the United States to exit the Gulf of Mexico, at a cost of upwards of $7 billion. But the cost would not have been limited to money, and the problems with the Keystone XL project did not only lie with the pipeline itself. After President Obama indicated his hesitation to go ahead with the project, Congress attempted to force the President and his State Department to make a decision without the studies necessary. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the initial report on the pipeline's regulations inadequate. In addition, TransCanada does not have a good track record with such projects. The Keystone Oil Pipeline, a predecessor to the Keystone XL, leaked twelve times just in its first year.
Despite such concerns, Republicans continued to force the issue in Congress. They tied the project to such bills as the payroll tax cut-a policy not only wholly unrelated, but one on which thousands of Americans depend. The need to pass the tax cut extension ultimately led to Keystone XL being put back on the self, as the environmental impact could not be assessed before the tax cut needed to be passed. As White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted, "the State department ... recommend[ed] denying the permit because it could not grant a permit on a pipeline route that hadn't even been identified."
Make no mistake, any potential leak in a transnational tar sands oil pipeline would have been disastrous. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon and the more recent Yellowstone River oil spill have shown the danger of lax regulations on such projects. Without increased regulation of pipelines, the risk of calamitous environmental impacts is too high for America to risk.
The problems America faces with regard to energy dependence are substantial. We must reduce our dependence on non-renewable sources and work on long-term solutions such as wind and hydroelectric power. However, the dangers associated with the Keystone XL pipeline far outweighed any potential gain from the oil. Rejecting the risky, high-cost Keystone XL pipeline will allow not only resources but also jobs to flow towards new forms of energy that the United States will be able to depend on for the future. President Obama made a praiseworthy decision in his choice to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline. America is better off without this project.
Jane Alters is the vice president of The Young Progressives. Tweet responses to @dailycardinal.