Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Administration's removal of politics from process gets Keystone XL pipeline approved

March 31, 2017
The Hill

Recently, the new Trump administration issued long delayed approvals necessary for federal permitting of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The approval process for this pipeline was held hostage for nine years to political considerations that have no place in the federal permitting process. For those who care about the fair and impartial rule of law, this was a landmark and long-overdue decision.

Approval of this pipeline consumed an inordinately high level of federal resources and political capital in recent years. While the project is important in its own right—moving a type of oil we have a limited supply of in the U.S. from Canada to our refineries in the Gulf Coast that need that heavier crude—it was otherwise unremarkable.

While pundits, politicians and environmentalists used this relatively small piece of infrastructure to score political points, a number of other pipelines were quietly working underneath our border with Canada and thousands of miles of pipeline snaked across the same land in states like Nebraska. In fact, the only two things truly unique about this pipeline were 1) the added safety measures the developer agreed to implement above and beyond what is required and 2) the level of opposition from an Obama administration whose own technical experts had reviewed the pipeline and found little in the way of environmental threat.

America depends on pipelines to move energy and supply our economy. This sentiment is not coming from a casual observer looking to place pipelines in someone else’s neighborhood, but a Texan whose congressional district is home to a large number of similar pipelines. Raising a family in this area, safety is critically important to me. Pipelines must be built to the highest standards, inspected regularly, and kept up in excellent condition. Once those conditions are met, however, consideration of these projects should be impartial. Sadly, that is not what happened with Keystone XL. Numerous reviews of the project concluded that not only would it be a safe pipeline, but it would have minimal climate impacts. Yet, an environmentally safe pipeline became a symbol for radical environmentalists seeking a cause. 

Not every project should be approved; oversight and close scrutiny are critically important when lives and private property are involved. But, once the legal process has played out and reviews are in order, government should make decisions rationally and with an even hand. The Trump administration took that action last week by approving the Keystone XL project. It is my hope that the next pipeline, much like the next windmill, solar farm, or power line, will be decided impartially without resorting to political theater that drags on for nine long years.

Olson represents Texas' 22nd District and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.