- - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Environmental activists are desperate for a new fight over the Keystone XL pipeline. They’ve chosen South Dakota as the next battleground.

This summer, the construction permit TransCanada energy company holds for a 313-mile stretch of Keystone XL in South Dakota comes up for recertification. The pipeline’s opponents plan to challenge the permit by concocting fabricated concerns about Keystone XL’s supposed environmental and economic impact.

Some activists claim that the construction of the pipeline, which would transfer oil from Canadian tar sands to American refineries near the Gulf of Mexico, will damage the environment.

But their challenge is baseless. The federal government has exhaustively analyzed the project and determined that the pipeline will actually benefit the environment even as it boosts South Dakota’s economy.

In an 11-volume report, the U.S. State Department concluded that Keystone XL would have a negligible impact on carbon emissions. The report also determined that the pipeline would not impact the surrounding water, vegetation, wildlife or air quality.

In fact, the pipeline would actually help the environment. That’s because moving oil by pipeline produces 42 percent fewer emissions than transporting the oil by rail, the next best alternative.

The reality that the Keystone XL pipeline is actually better for the environment than any other option certainly puts a hole in environmentalists’ anti-Keystone argument. But if the green extremists still want to attack Keystone XL, the truth won’t stop them from inventing some other unfounded hogwash in a pathetic attempt to smear the pipeline.

For example, the anti-pipeline lobby may dust off the bogus argument that Keystone XL is unsafe. That myth has been busted by a comprehensive six-year review of Keystone XL conducted by the State Department – comprising five reports and 17,000 pages of review. Further, TransCanada is slated to build Keystone XL according to rigorous safety standards, including the inclusion of 59 new safety rules federal regulators added to TransCanada’s proposal.

The first Keystone Pipeline has been operating safely for seven years. It has already safely transported more than 610 million barrels of oil – while also creating 9,000 jobs.

Keystone XL would offer a similar boost to South Dakota’s economy. The State Department predicts that construction of the pipeline would create 3,000-4,000 local jobs. That translates into $100 million in earnings for American workers.

Even South Dakotans not directly involved in the pipeline’s construction would benefit from Keystone XL.

To build Keystone XL, TransCanada would pay millions of dollars in local property taxes. The company has already paid $18 million in property taxes for the first Keystone pipeline. Additionally, the State Department estimates that property values in seven of the nine South Dakota counties along the new pipeline’s route could jump by more than 10 percent.

Keystone XL’s opponents, including President Obama, have also asserted that the oil passing through the pipeline would be exported beyond U.S. borders. According to this critique, the pipeline offers little to no economic benefit to the United States.

Once again, Mr. Obama’s own State Department disproves that notion. According to the agency, TransCanada would not be “economically justified” in primarily exporting Keystone XL oil outside the United States because of our country’s abundance of refineries.

In other words, TransCanada would have to be crazy to export Keystone oil.

Transporting oil from Canada is good for both U.S. energy companies and America’s security. The Brookings Institution has noted that some refineries are in desperate need of crude oil but have to import it from foreign nations like Mexico and Venezuela. Canadian oil can alleviate this supply squeeze. Patrick Moore, former director of Greenpeace International, supports Keystone XL for this reason.

Mr. Moore has noted that Canadian oil is far better than oil “coming in from the Middle East, Nigeria and Venezuela.” He adds, “Canada is a friendly democracy that has good environmental laws.”

Environmental activists may want to fight the Keystone XL in South Dakota, but the evidence doesn’t support their arguments. During the recertification process this summer, South Dakota officials should ensure that the activists lose their battle.

For the sake of the environment, the economy, national security and the residents of the state, South Dakota leaders must re-up Keystone XL’s permit as soon they get the opportunity.

Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to limited, responsible government.

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