Yesterday the U.S. State Department said it would delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline in order to seek more information about it. " As a result of this process, particularly given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska."
Back in August, when more than a thousand people got arrested protesting this decision in front of the White House, I wrote about a group of people from California who joined that protest. I found it unusual and intriguing that so many people would take such a specific protest action with a clearly articulated goal. Environmentalists in the US have often had strong opinions. They haven't often succeeded in getting a large and mainstream chunk of people to do something about it. (And cite MLK in the process.)
That last part reminded me that this week's song could be MLK, by U2.
And may your dreams
If the thunder cloud
So let it rain
Rain down him
So let it be
So let it be
U2 loves the sound of delay, and while MLK isn't a delay song like Where the Streets Have No Name, I liked the symbolism of referencing a band that uses delay in its work for a news item involving the delay of a decision. The other connection is the observed phenomenon of environmentalists referencing Martin Luther King in their advocacy; I've written about that before, both more generally and with regard to the Keystone XL protests.
This decision's a clear loss for projects dependent on the timely function of the Keystone XL project. Environmentalists are claiming it as a victory. Writes Bill McKibben on the protest's blog:
One month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by the National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. As late as last week the CBC reported that Transcanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted. A done deal has come spectacularly undone.
Maybe the biggest winner in this is President Obama. Just days before the decision, pundits were essentially saying he was between a rock and a hard place, with political fallout for approving or denying the project. His third-way delay is readable, then as a soft landing. And the plot so far offers no guarantees for what will happen once Obama delays action on yet another environmental issue for which action has grave consequences.