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Pipeline Politics
Nebraska Judge Kicks Keystone Can Down Road for Obama

Christmas is coming early for President Obama this year—about ten months early, in fact. A district judge ruled that the Nebraska Governor’s decision to circumvent a Public Service Commission approval process in order to fast track the Keystone XL pipeline project violated the state constitution.

The commission now gets to deliberate on the project, a process that could take up to seven months. That should give the President an opportunity to get past this year’s midterm elections without making a decision. This was probably exactly the outcome he was hoping for.

President Obama said last June that he would approve Keystone “only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” A State Department environmental impact statement released late last month found that the pipeline passes that test, because Canada’s tar sands oil will find its way to market with or without this specific infrastructure project.

The fact that the pipeline has cleared the biggest hurdle the President set in front of it means that his continued hesitation would lack any apparent basis except political convenience. If he were to green-light Keystone, he would alienate a significant portion of the Democrats’ green base, which has staked most of its time and energy on killing the project.

The President should send that judge a thank you note.

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