House strips State Dept of cross-border pipeline approval (Think: Keystone XL)
Even though Hillary Clinton is no longer in charge of the State Department, some in the GOP continue to hold a grudge. Which is why they voted to removed the State Department from the approvals chain for pipelines that cross an international border. Hey, it’s petty, but it’s one of the few accomplishments the House can claim so far this year.
By Jeremy Bloom
Under the bill, H.R. 2883 (115), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would get the lead in all approvals of cross-border pipelines like Keystone XL, while cross-border power lines would fall under the Energy Department, as reported by Ben Lefebvre in Politico Pro (via CRES)
Various versions of the bill, have passed the House before, only to die in the Senate. It’s not clear if this one has any better chance of moving forward.
FERC would get a lot more power under another bill that passed the House at the same time, H.R. 2910 (115). That bill would streamline environmental reviews and require other agencies (state, Federal and tribal) to defer to FERC decisions.
It’s not clear what impact, if any, these bills would have had on approval of the KXL pipeline, had they been in place during the Obama Administration.
KXL was declared dead last year, but has been brought back to life in zombie form by Trump. Several hurdles remain in its way, including environmental lawsuits and opposition from Nebraska farmers who don’t want it cutting across their land (and potentially spilling millions of gallons of crude into the Midwest’s most important aquifer, which could destroy the economies of 6 states).
More important, with the price of oil mired around $50 a barrel, Alberta’s tar sands oil production is also hugely problematic. It’s simply not cost-effective to produce that particularly nasty and climate-unfriendly petroleum at anything less than around $90 a barrel, and without tar sands oil, there’s no need for the KXL pipeline.