As you probably recall, President Joe Biden made good on his promise to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline “on day one.” (Though that move may wind up being blocked in court.) This decision was cheered by the “keep it in the ground” crowd, who have been rather down in the dumps over the past four years as America grew to be one of the most dominant producers of oil and natural gas in the world.
Rather than just chalking one up in the win column and taking a victory lap, however, other activists who have been seeking to shut down or halt production at other pipelines have been pressuring the Biden administration to expand these efforts. The Associated Press runs down a list of the various protest groups that are vying for Biden’s attention and his support in destroying tens of thousands of good jobs and crippling the nation’s energy security. And there are more of them than you might think.
After President Joe Biden revoked Keystone XL’s presidential permit and shut down construction of the long-disputed pipeline that was to carry oil from Canada to Texas, opponents of other pipelines hoped the projects they’ve been fighting would be next.
The Biden administration hasn’t specified what action it might take on other pipelines, but industry experts doubt there will be swift changes like the one that stopped Keystone. They say the Keystone XL move on Biden’s first day fulfilled a campaign promise and was symbolic for a president who has made climate change a national security priority and has called for a dramatic increase in cost-competitive renewable and clean-burning energy.
“I think generally we can expect more rigorous environmental reviews, more scrutiny and so forth. But I would be very surprised if Biden were to take any action of the executive order type,” said Ben Cowan, an environmental law attorney who advises clients on permitting for pipelines and other energy projects.
Biden won’t move on disabling all of these projects at the same pace as Keystone but don’t be shocked if he bends a knee to his base and takes some of the others on the list out. One of them is the Dakota Access pipeline, running from the oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois. That one is already up and running safely, but it’s still being challenged in court. The group with the standing to sue the company behind it is the Standing Rock Sioux, but they have a coalition of various green energy groups funding and driving their efforts. They recently obtained a court order for a more thorough environmental review, but the judge wouldn’t go so far as to shut the operation down. At least… not yet.
A protest against the Enbridge Line 3 in Minnesota is being pushed by AOC for some reason, though she represents New York City. A petition has been started demanding that Joe Biden revoke a water permit needed to complete construction. The same group is trying to shut down construction on a replacement for Enbridge’s Line 5, which carries crude oil from western Canada to refineries in Michigan and Wisconsin. Gretchen Whitmer is supporting that lobbying effort.
Activists are also lobbying Biden to kill off the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia, along with other projects in as many as twenty states. The main question for the Biden administration at this point should how many tens of thousands of jobs Status Quo Joe can kill off with a wave of his pen before the people begin to truly revolt and his administration begins to flounder. The country has grown used to a booming oil and gas industry over the past four years and once those jobs go away, the impact will be felt far and wide.
Meanwhile, there’s an eminent domain rule change coming at the FERC that could make it even harder to get approval for new pipeline projects. While I’m not generally a fan of eminent domain except in the most critical examples of true public use, the nation’s energy infrastructure is absolutely important enough to make the occasional exception if no alternate routes are possible. A lot of these issues probably seem like dry, bureaucratic affairs, but you’ll want to keep an eye on them. A small procedural change to a bit of legislative language can produce an outsized effect on the private sector.