GLOBE EDITORIAL: Ottawa couldn’t help Keystone, but it can still approve pipelines at home (Globe and Mail – November 7, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

In the more than half a decade the Keystone XL pipeline proposal spent in limbo – neither accepted nor rejected, neither pumping nor scrapped – thousands upon thousands of miles of new oil pipeline were built across the United States, without fuss or much public interest.

In the years to come, many other pipelines crisscrossing U.S. soil will surely be approved. But Keystone is, or was, different. American politics long ago took hold of it, first putting it into an indefinite deep freeze, and then this week keeping it alive just long enough to finally kill it.

On Monday, the company behind the project, TransCanada Corp., asked the U.S. government to suspend its application. The move made sense, given that it was already apparent that the application had little chance of success under the Obama administration.

But the U.S. State Department, which long ago put the application into suspended animation, refused to agree to the company’s request. Instead, Washington kept its Keystone review alive – the same review it had long refused to finish, until finally announcing on Friday that there will be no State Department approval for the pipeline.

Why did this take so long? Politics. Why did the U.S. kill it now? Politics. A Democratic White House that long hoped to ignore Keystone needed the project to stick around so that it could best cash in when it finally got around to very publicly killing it just before the Paris climate change conference.

For U.S. environmentalists, for voters who lean green, for like-minded political donors and for most of the Democratic Party, this one pipeline – not all pipelines, just this one – was a signifier of where politicians and voters stood and wanted to be seen as standing on climate change. This was, and still is, also true for Keystone’s rabid supporters in the Republican Party.

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