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April 24, 2014

In Our Opinion: Blame politics for only one pipeline delay

The Daily Star

---- — Let’s call it a tale of two pipelines.

Or perhaps two pipe dreams.

The first is a big national issue that could have a significant effect on whether the Democrats or Republicans are running the Senate in 2015.

The second is quite a bit more local, affecting — among other areas — Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties.

In both instances, powerful fiscal and environmental interests are battling, their weapons consisting mostly of statistics and words.

The proposed $5.4 billion Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, through America’s heartland to Texas and Louisiana, put President Barack Obama into a political pickle about six months before November’s midterm elections.

If his administration approves the project, it will make environmentalists — many of whom are the Democrats’ core constituency — rather unhappy. Their glumness would apparently extend to fostering acts of civil disobedience. Bloomberg News reported that classes on such tactics have been taught in eight cities over the last two weekends.

On the other hand, if Obama rejects the project, it could greatly harm the re-election prospects of six red-state Senate Democrats whose constituents crave the financial boost the pipeline might provide.

So Obama did what any canny politician would do. He tried to make the decision go away until after the election. On Friday, the U.S. State Department announced that it would delay making a recommendation until a court case about the pipeline in Nebraska is settled.

Pipeline opponents figure the case will take at least until January to decide — well past the November elections. Republicans and vulnerable Democrats such as Mary Landrieu of oil-obsessed Louisiana screamed about it being a politically motivated move.

Which it almost certainly was, but we believe the same really can’t accurately be said about the approximately 124-mile proposed Constitution Pipeline designed to transport enough natural gas each day to serve about 3 million homes.

The Constitution Pipeline Company needs approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the controversial route that would begin in Susquehanna County, Pa., and end in Schoharie County.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said a draft report on the pipeline’s environmental impacts “insufficient,” and that a potential option of locating the transmission line along Interstate 88 “has not been fully evaluated.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation also complained that the pipeline company’s preferred route could be more environmentally harmful than the I-88 corridor and that “the applicant has unfortunately not submitted detailed information nor has it presented detailed proposals or plans” to the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

It would seem then that the Constitution Pipeline folks have only themselves — rather than Keystone-type politics — to blame for delaying their project.