This afternoon, the State Department released a draft environmental assessment of the proposed Keystone Pipeline. The assessment concluded that blocking the pipeline would have little impact on stemming climate change nor curtailing the development of Canada’s oil-sand fields. In other words, the State Department has concluded building the pipeline will have little impact on the environment.
The draft is a blow for environmentalists, who had tried to link development of the pipeline to the overall issue of climate change. The assessment will be subject to public comments for 45 days. The State Department will have to respond to those comments before issuing its final assessment. Still, today’s release suggests the Administration is preparing to approve the pipeline project.
The challenge for environmentalists is even steeper, as today’s release comes just days after John Kerry was sworn in as Secretary of State. He has been a long-time advocate for measures to combat global warming. That his agency is separating the pipeline from the larger issue of global warming explodes one of the environmental left’s chief talking points.
There is an old saw in media that the best stories are released Friday afternoon. Administrations release information then to try to bury the news over the weekend. The assessment is sure to enflame the hair-shirt wing of the Democrats. The left has been divided over the pipeline, with unions strongly supporting the construction against the environmental community. Today, it looks like Obama is siding with the unions.
Or, at least he is inclined too. The floating of the draft assessment is a test for the environmental movement. If, perhaps, they could drum up public opposition to the pipeline, Obama could pivot. They are likely to fail that test, however.