Andrew Townsend

A permit denial for a pipeline that would transport oil across the United States drew disapproval from political and labor union supporters of the project.

President Barack Obama denied the permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline on Jan. 18. The pipeline made headlines last year after conflict arose between Obama and Congressional Republicans who were in favor of project.

The Keystone XL pipeline system, proposed by TransCanada, is a $13 million, 1,661-mile underground oil pipeline that would travel from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast through Texas, according the TransCanada’s website.

Laborer councils and unions who demonstrated their support for the pipeline during the U.S. Department of State’s community hearings are disappointed by the decision said Jaclyn Macek Houser, spokeswoman for Laborers’ International Union of North America.

“The president sided with environmentalists instead of construction workers that have suffered because of a lack of jobs,” Macek Houser said. “This is politics at its worst.”

In a statement released by the White House, Obama said his decision was based on the deadline placed by Congressional Republicans that prevented the State Department from gathering necessary information on the pipeline’s health and environmental impact to approve the project.

Reno Hammond, business manager for Southwest Laborers’ District Council, said Obama’s decision was not a surprise after Congress put pressure on the president to make a decision before he wanted to.

“I don’t think it’s off the table yet,” Hammond said. “But I think having to stall because of a minority belief in what affects the environment is unfortunate.”

Critics of the pipeline celebrated Obama’s decision but are aware that the pipeline proposal is only postponed, said Andrew Townsend, assistant director of the Campus Environmental Center.

TransCanada announced they would re-apply for a permit for the Keystone pipeline in hopes to receive approval to begin construction on their project in late 2014.

“Time will tell what form the new proposal will take and whether or not this battle has simply been pushed further down the road,” Townsend said.

Last year, the center presented legislation in opposition to the pipeline to Student Government.

“Nevertheless, this is a victory for the environmental community and America as a whole,” he said.

Jamie Henn, co-founder of environmental activist group who protested against the pipeline, said Obama did the right thing by denying the permit for a pipeline that was a scam and would have endangered land and water along its route.

“Stopping this pipeline was step one,” Henn said. “President Obama now needs to lay out an ambitious plan to create a new clean energy economy, one that can create jobs, save the planet and help break the stranglehold ‘Big Oil’ has over our democracy.”

Printed on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 as: Environmental concerns: awaited pipeline denied

Student Government passed a resolution supporting student involvement in the proposed Keystone Oil Pipeline Project on Tuesday night. The resolution did not state SG’s opposition to the pipeline but rather called for more environmental and ecological information from the State Department.

Andrew Townsend, assistant director for the Campus Environmental Center, presented legislation opposing the oil pipeline to SG last week. The Keystone Oil Pipeline, a project by energy company TransCanada, would run more than 1,600 miles from Alberta, Canada, and would end in the Nederland and Port Arthur area.

Townsend said he and many members of the CEC were concerned with the environmental impact the pipeline would have on the state of Texas, especially the degradation of air quality and the effect on natural aquifers, which could, in turn, affect the families and homes of UT students.

“We hope that this legislation, if passed by SG, will serve to illustrate the level of concern present in the student body about this issue,” Townsend said.

Townsend said his committee wrote the legislation in preparation for the State Department public hearing about the pipeline to be held Wednesday. 

Questions arose last week about whether the issue of the Keystone pipeline could be considered student life or whether it was solely a political issue. Yaman Desai, chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee, said representatives mainly had concern with the proposed legislation because they felt not enough was known about the pipeline and about the environmental and economical issues it would cause. 

“[Because] we found such contradictory and inconclusive research on the pipeline, many representatives on the committee did not feel comfortable voting in opposition to the pipeline,” Desai said.

The Legislative Affairs Committee killed Townsend’s original bill in session and drafted a new bill calling for student involvement on the issue and for the State Department to provide a new environmental impact statement that would provide more information on risks of the Keystone project on Texas lands and communities during drought conditions.

The bill passed with an amendment that would only ask the State Department to analyze the environmental impacts instead of issuing a new resolution.

School of Law representative Austin Carlson said the original resolution was in the greater political arena instead of the SG arena.

“I am all for having student involvement, but you walk a very fine line when you touch an underlying political issue,” Carlson said.