The decade-long fight over Keystone XL, a 1,179-mile underground oil pipeline that would carry crude from Canada to Nebraska, just took another surprising turn.

In June, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction and allowed the long-delayed construction project to move forward. But environmentalists quickly threw up new frivolous roadblocks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had previously approved the project -- but lawyers from the Sierra Club and allied groups petitioned a federal judge to rescind those approvals, alleging that the Corps failed to conduct adequate environmental reviews.

These bad-faith delaying tactics have gone on for too many years. As numerous analyses have shown, the pipeline would create jobs, boost the economy and strengthen our national security -- especially here in Nebraska -- all without damaging the environment.

Once it's completed, Keystone XL could transport 830,000 barrels -- 35 million gallons -- of Canadian crude oil to American refineries each day. The pipeline would traverse Montana and South Dakota before ending in Nebraska, where the oil would flow into an existing pipeline system that extends to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Green groups claim, as they do with most things, that the pipeline would wreak havoc on the environment. Since the project was first proposed in 2008, these activists have demanded the pipeline undergo a variety of environmental reviews.

The Obama and Trump administrations carried out six rigorous assessments. Each time, the pipeline passed with flying colors. The environmentalists should have been thrilled with the results showing the project to be safe.

An analysis by the consulting firm IHS found Keystone XL would have "no material impact" on greenhouse gas emissions. The Obama State Department reached a similar conclusion in a 2014 study. Even Judge Brian Morris -- a federal judge appointed by President Obama who halted pipeline construction in 2018 -- accepted the State Department's findings.

Keystone XL doesn't just meet environmental standards; it exceeds them. In 2013, Keystone developer TC Energy agreed to bolster the pipeline with 57 safety features not required by law. From its steel quality to its safety protocols, Keystone XL is a cut above the average pipeline.

Even without these additions, Keystone XL would be safer than the status quo. Pipelines deliver oil safely 99.999% of the time, making them the best energy transportation method by far. Compared to pipelines, trains are 4.5 times more likely to experience an accident or incident while transporting oil.

Between 2016 and 2017, the amount of crude Canada exported by rail spiked 18%. It would have been far safer to ship this oil by pipeline. And it would have generated fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Delaying Keystone doesn't just put the environment at risk. It also compromises our national security. If U.S. refineries can't import heavy grades of crude oil from friendly countries like Canada, they'll have to rely on hostile, volatile nations. As one 2013 report noted, Venezuela "would be the number one beneficiary" of not building the pipeline.

Keystone XL would also strengthen Nebraska's economy. The construction phase alone would create 5,500 local jobs. That economic activity would generate over $130 million in property, sales, and other taxes that will help fund schools and police departments across Nebraska, according to an analysis by Creighton University economist Ernie Goss.

Local residents will also benefit just from their proximity to the pipeline. The pipeline's owner, TC Energy, plans to dole out bonuses to Nebraska landowners along the pipeline's route.

Keystone XL is a win for our environment, economy and national security. But after a decade of studies, delays and litigation, the project still hasn't kicked off. It has taken longer to get paperwork for an underground pipeline approved than it did to put a man on the moon.

It's time for green groups to stop their protesting and accept that the scientific studies they demanded are complete, even if they don't like the scientific results.

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Michael James Barton is the former deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon and now speaks on energy and energy security matters. He lives in Houston.


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