Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn’t have much day-to-day authority in the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, commissioner Tony Clark stepped outside his regulatory role to opine about the pipeline project.
“I would say this, to me the real victim in the whole Keystone XL debacle is the rule of law,” Clark said. “Certainly relations with Canada have been harmed, there are other victims in a sense that have fallen by the wayside in this, but I would say the greatest one is the sense that we have probably violated the rule of law in terms of this particular permitting process.”
Clark said FERC is the agency that tells the pipeline what they can charge their customers to ship over the pipeline and is strictly an economic regulator of oil and liquid pipelines. However, attempting to take emotion out of the equation, Clark points to timelines and judicial processes in order to demonstrate how simple the outcome could be.
“Whether you are for Keystone or admittedly opposed to Keystone XL, it would seem like everyone could agree that the developer should be able to get an answer in less than seven years,” Clark said. “It doesn’t take that long to developer a particular record.”
According to Clark, advancing the project would allow the local and state courts to begin their rumored litigation. Lawsuits have been attached to the Keystone since it was proposed in 2009. One on hand environmentalists would sue to block and on the other hand developers would sue.
“If the State Department approves it, that can be taken to court, a judge can look at it and make a decision up or down whether they did a good job or whether it is blocked,” Clark said. “Then the developer can take it to court and a judge can look and see if the state department has acted arbitrarily and capriciously. But simply not doing anything or acting on an application for seven years really undermines the rule of law in terms of how infrastructure is supposed to be developed. And when you can’t even get an answer that’s problematic.”
Clark continued saying the problem runs deeper as political influences are showing their true colors more and more.
“If political influences can undermine that logical regulatory process that should take place and circumvent the judicial review that should take place, there is an issue,” Clark said. “If it can be done with this project, than it can be done with another project, it can be done with a transmission line and it becomes harder and harder to cite anything in this country in terms of getting infrastructure in this country developed.”
Clark sees the ripple extending beyond the political posturing and into the consumer’s thermostats and pocketbooks.
“And then you’ve got a real problem in terms of reliability and affordability,” Clark said. “Due process is what has been violated in this case. At least make a decision.”