One week following the Obama administration's rejection of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, several potential pathways have emerged for pipeline proponents who would like to circumvent the president's decision. What are the next legal and legislative steps, and how are TransCanada's plans shaping up? On today's The Cutting Edge, Greenwire reporter Manuel Quiñones discusses the future of legal and legislative challenges and the ongoing political drama surrounding the pipeline.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. One week post-Keystone XL rejection, and several pathways have emerged for pipeline proponents trying to circumvent the president's decision. Greenwire's Manuel Quiñones has been following all the pipeline drama. Manuel, is the end really the end here? What kind of legal and legislative challenges are you hearing about?
Manuel Quiñones: Oh, it's by far not the end. A lot of people were celebrating, saying you know, not when it comes to the people wanting to build Keystone, but when it comes to people covering Keystone or discussing Keystone saying, oh this is it. Well, it's not it. I prefer to call it the beginning of a new phase. There's still a lot of uncertainty as to what, if any, legal avenues the company will use. I checked with them this morning, and they're still not saying what their next steps are. However, lawmakers on Capitol Hill who talked to the company, to TransCanada Corp., say they're very much interested in the pipeline, and they're keen on lawmakers doing something to try again at getting it approved through congressional action.
Monica Trauzzi: And that could actually happen?
Manuel Quiñones: There are some lawmakers who say it's worth trying again, but the vast majority of them are more thinking let's wait until after the elections because not only may you have a different president, but also you may have a different congressional makeup. So if, you know, even if you have a Secretary Clinton, for example, who opposes the pipeline, becoming president, you may have enough in Congress to override her veto.
Monica Trauzzi: Nebraska and South Dakota, they still have pending legal action there. So is that still relevant considering the president's decision and what's at play there?
Manuel Quiñones: As of now, it remains very much relevant. You know, one question for TransCanada is how much are you going to pursue the processes there, but basically in South Dakota, they're renewing a permit. They had a permit and they need to renew it. And in Nebraska, they submitted a new permit application through the Public Service Commission. At least in South Dakota, officials there say yeah, we're moving forward because the transboundary decision, which the president has jurisdiction over, is different than the state issues. Then there's also litigation in Nebraska over a previous permitting scheme that allowed the governor to issue the permit. TransCanada is no longer pursuing that, but opponents of that tactic are still in court trying to undo that. So in the states, there's still a lot of action.
Monica Trauzzi: And you mentioned you spoke to TransCanada this morning. They've invested a tremendous amount of money and time into this project. Could they just wait for the next president to come into office to really make a decision on what they want to do next?
Manuel Quiñones: It seems the answer is yes on that because, you know, as we saw before, the president makes -- made his rejection, TransCanada said, hey, let's pause this process. There's too much uncertainty, you know, especially in Nebraska, so let's wait. And that was largely seen as waiting until after the election. So at this point, what most people are saying is that that seems to be the best bet.
Monica Trauzzi: Oil economics have shifted dramatically since the pipeline was first proposed. So from a purely financial standpoint, would it make sense for TransCanada to seek new destinations for this oil or is this their best bet?
Manuel Quiñones: You know, there's some interesting perspective to that. You know, on one point, on the one hand, they have other pipeline proposals out there. There's other pipeline proposals out there, and the Canadian government and the Alberta government, even though it's a relatively new left-wing government in Alberta, they're still keen on seeing new pipeline proposals. We already saw also predictions that there might be more oil moving through rail, so that's another option. Critics of tar sands, oil sands development say, you know, it's really not economical right now. Killing Keystone will eventually kill that industry or help kill that industry. At the same time, TransCanada seems committed to saying we need to get this out, and so do Canadian officials. So economically, they still see a viable future.
Monica Trauzzi: One year until Americans select a new president. How are you expecting Keystone will play in the presidential election leading up to November 2016?
Manuel Quiñones: Oh, it's definitely playing a lot. It seems that it's going to play more once we get to the general because we see that Republicans agree with building the pipeline, so that's -- there's not a lot of division there. And Democrats all -- the main Democratic contenders are all against the pipeline. You know, the only bickering is, like, how opposed are you and how early did you come out against it. So there -- we have seen some, you know, intraparty or interparty fighting, but it seems that it's going to be more at the general election. At the same time, a lot of analysts say it's not as salient as it was before because, as the president said, you know, he waited until gas prices were down, the economy was better, we were producing more oil, so it's not as much of a slam dunk as it was before.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, Manuel. Always a pleasure to have you on. Thanks for coming on the show.
Manuel Quiñones: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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