The State Department is expected to release a draft environmental impact statement of the Keystone XL pipeline soon. All signs indicate this new report will echo the findings of previous federal reviews and conclude the project is environmentally sound.
With the governor of Nebraska having approved a new route for the pipeline through his state, this report removes what should be the final barrier to the presidentís approval of this critical project. No single policy decision would be more effective at delivering what the American public says it wants most from Washington: new jobs and economic growth.
And support for the project continues to grow. A poll released Feb. 13 by Harris Interactive shows that 69 percent of registered voters support building the pipeline. Whatís more, a bipartisan group of 53 senators ó led by John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Max Baucus, D-Mont. ó sent a letter to the president last month urging him to immediately authorize the project in light of the governorís decision. That letter was followed by a similar bipartisan letter signed by 146 members of the House.
Approval of the full Keystone XL pipeline would connect Canadian crude oil and new production from Americaís upper plains states to state-of-the-art refineries on the American Gulf Coast. At full capacity, it would transport 830,000 barrels per day.
The application for approval has been under review by the U.S. government for more than four years, far longer than any other cross-border pipeline project and more than twice as long as it would take to build the pipeline.
Economic benefits of Keystone XL are clear. The project will generate thousands of new jobs, both in the actual construction of the pipeline and in supporting industries such as manufacturing, logistics, lodging and dining. While the national unemployment rate hovers around 8 percent, unemployment in the construction industry is a staggering 16.1 percent. Keystone XL will immediately allow thousands of the safest, most highly trained workers to begin building this state-of-the-art pipeline.
The State Departmentís analysis acknowledges that Keystone XL will have ďa degree of safety greater thanĒ similar projects. In addition, Transcanada has agreed to 57 special conditions above and beyond those required by law, demonstrating a commitment to safely and responsibly constructing and operating this important energy infrastructure project.
National security will also be enhanced as the Keystone XL and other pipeline projects strengthen our energy partnership with Canada. Together with significant increases in U.S. production, North America will not only be more energy secure itself but will also be in a position to positively influence global energy demands.
Jobs, economic growth, energy security, national security. Itís no wonder so many newspaper editorials, members of Congress and other influential voices are calling on the president to approve this vital project. And no wonder that the leadership of Americaís building trades unions and the oil and natural gas industry have joined to call for the same.
Jack Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. Sean McGarvey is president of the Building and Construction Trades Department at the AFL-CIO.