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Sean Hackbarth  Scott Dalton/Bloomberg.A worker walks past pipe ready to be used to construct the Keystone XL pipeline. Photographer: Photographer: Scott Dalton/Bloomberg.

"If there is no pipeline, there is no future. End of conversation.”

Denny Hogan of Circle, Montana told NBC News’ Tony Dokoupil the start reality of this small rural town.

The pipeline is the Keystone XL, which will transport oil sands crude from Alberta along with Bakken crude oil to Nebraska then on to Gulf Coast refineries.

Circle’s economy used to rely on agriculture, but times have changed:

Since the 1960s, Circle has lost half of its population to moving vans and the mortuary, and Main Street looks like it’s missing a few teeth. From certain angles and when the light is right, the four-block thoroughfare gives off that old, mellow glow. But more often it feels as desolate and lonely as the suburbs on a weekday afternoon. The movie theater is closed. The bowling alley has no lanes. In the center of town, the Gladstone Hotel is a 99-year-old historical landmark with weeds growing through the floor.

People in Circle and surrounding McCone County wait with the rest of us for President Obama to approve the pipeline. For them, the pipeline is more than oil traveling south below their feet. Jobs and tax revenue generated by the pipeline mean hope for the community:

About 1,500 of those would [be] pipeline-related, mostly in construction, and probably lasting only a year or two. But another 2,200 jobs are expected to grow from those, giving McCone County the equivalent of several years of paydays and clanging cash registers in a single dose.

It’s expected that McCone County will get $18 million annually in property taxes.

Judging by the experience of Oklahoma and Texas where the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline--the Gulf Coast Project--was built, rural towns like Circle should be optimistic. A report from Southern Methodist University's Maguire Energy Institute found that construction of the Gulf Coast Project resulted in

Over $5.7 billion in new economic activity. Over 42,000 person years of new employment. Over $217 million in additional state and local taxes.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy along with 43 associations sent a letter to Secretary John Kerry asking the State Department to finish its National Interest Determination (NID) process and approve the pipeline:

The Final Environmental Impact Statement released by the Department earlier this year found over 42,000 jobs would be created and $3.4 billion in additional revenue to GDP would result in the building of this project, yet we continue to wait. Our labor community continues to face a stubborn unemployment rate that by far outpaces the national average, yet we continue to wait. Over 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, support the building of this project and yet we continue to wait. The facts and benefits are clear; this project is in our national interest.

The letter goes on to state that the Obama administration’s latest excuse for delay, a Nebraska state court decision under appeal is just that, an excuse:

There is no reason for the president to delay issuing the cross-border permit due to a state appellate court proceeding. Keystone XL enjoys the support of the Nebraska governor and policymakers. Nebraska conducted a thorough route assessment. Furthermore, the State Department has found in all five environmental reviews that the project would not significantly impact the environment, including the various route options through Nebraska. The issue of our national interest will not be affected or changed by the outcome of the Nebraska decision.

It’s been over five years since Keystone XL’s first permit application. Out-of-work construction workers are waiting, manufacturers are waiting, young people are waiting, and communities are waiting. It’s been long enough. This is the most-studied pipeline in U.S. history. It’s time for the President to end the delays and approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Towns like Circle need to know where its future lies.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

Sean Hackbarth EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

Last year, when EPA held public hearings about potential carbon regulations for existing power plants it avoided states where coal use is most-important.

After releasing its proposed carbon regulations you would have thought the agency had learned its lesson on where it would hold public hearings.


Facing higher-than-expected response to its proposed carbon dioxide regulations for power plants, the Environmental Protection Agency is doubling the number of public hearings it will host to gather input on the rules.

The EPA announced in a notice due to be published Thursday in the Federal Register it has added a day to the hearings it scheduled in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. at the end of July.

While more time for public hearings is welcome, EPA again avoids areas of the country that will be heavily affected by EPA’s proposed regulations. For instance, once again, no hearings are scheduled in any of the ten states most reliant on coal for electricity, such as Wyoming (88%), West Virginia (95%), or Missouri (83%). The agency is also avoiding many other states that will be hit extremely hard by the rules, such as Arizona (EPA-proposed emissions rate reduction of 52%), Arkansas (44%), Minnesota (41%), Louisiana (39%), Florida (38%). Those living in each of those states will have to travel hundreds of miles for an opportunity to voice their concerns.

And like last year, it appears that this is inconsistent with EPA’s policy of where it holds public hearings:

When the subject of a public hearing, meeting or other information exchange process relates to conditions or facilities in a specific geographic area, EPA should hold the public hearing or meeting in that general geographic area.

EPA’s proposed carbon regulations may be unpopular in many states, but it’s critical that EPA make sure those states most-affected are heard. As a first step, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy should follow through on her commitment to ensure that the rulemaking process be “an absolute collaboration between the federal and state government…a partnership if there ever was one” by scheduling additional public hearings that enable states, citizens, and other interested parties an opportunity to provide feedback on the potential effects of its regulatory agenda.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

Sean Hackbarth Oil rigs off Alabama's coast.Oil rigs off Alabama's coast.Photographer: kris krüg/Flickr. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

We’re witnessing a strange dichotomy during America’s energy boom. While oil and natural gas production has been increasing on private and state lands, it’s been falling on federal lands, as these two charts from the Institute for 21st Century Energy show. 

Between 2009 and 2013, oil production on private and state lands has increased by 61% while decreasing by 6% on federal lands. 

 Oil production on federal lands is declining.Chart: Oil production on federal lands is declining.

In that same time, natural gas production on private and state lands has increased by 33% but decreased by 28% on federal lands.

 Natural gas production on federal lands is declining.Chart: Natural gas production on federal lands is declining.

This Congressional Research Service report gets into the details.

Much of the blame stems from permitting delays by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  A Department of Interior Inspector General report finds that while state regulators take only 80 days to approve permits, their federal counterparts at BLM take about 7.5 months. What's more BLM’s permitting process also involves a lot of uncertainty:

We found that neither BLM nor the operator can predict when the permit will be approved. Target dates for completion of individual [applications for permits to drill] are rarely set and enforced, and consequently, the review may continue indefinitely.

This “adversely affects developing the Nation’s domestic energy resources," the report states.

Federal authorities can reverse this trend by improving the permitting process for federal lands and opening more offshore areas to energy exploration.

Read the Institute for 21st Century Energy’s Energy Works for US for more policy recommendations to unleash America’s energy abundance. 

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

Sean Hackbarth  Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.A crude oil well outside Watford City, North Dakota. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, America is witnessing a gusher of domestic oil. One focal point is North Dakota, which recently hit a production milestone:

Oil production statistics released by the state’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) revealed that the state produced 1,002,445 barrels per day in April 2014, up from 793,832 the year before. The new statistics mean that North Dakota now joins the ranks of Texas, Alaska, California and Louisiana- the only states to ever generate more than one million barrels per day. (Texas is the only other one still producing that amount.)

North Dakota expects its production to climb: the DMR predicts oil production to peak at 1.5 million barrels per day around 2017.

This tracks a broader, national trend, as well: This year U.S. oil field production outpaced imports by about one million barrels a day.

The king of American oil production is still Texas, which topped the three-million barrels per day mark in April.

 Texas oil production.AEI chart: Texas oil production.Source: Mark Perry, American Enterprise Institute.

Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute points out that “Texas would have been the 8th largest oil-producing nation in the world for crude oil output in December [2013] (most recent month available for international oil production data) at 2.82 million bpd – just slightly behind No. 7 Iraq at 2.92 million bpd.”

Together, North Dakota and Texas produced nearly half of all the oil in the United States.

 April 2010-April 2014.EIA chart: Monthly crude oil production by state: April 2010-April 2014.Source: Energy Information Administration.

This has led to impressive levels of economic growth in both states.

Let’s not forget successful shale exploration in Colorado:

Colorado energy companies produced nearly 64.1 million barrels of oil during 2013, breaking a record for full-year production that’s stood for nearly 60 years, according to state regulators.

The 2013 production also represents a 30 percent increase over the state’s 2012 production — and is more than double the amount of oil Colorado produced in 2008, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which oversees the state’s multi-billion dollar industry.

However, Colorado's progress is at risk by potential moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing.

America is blessed to have the technological ability, entrepreneurship, and freedom to develop its energy abundance. If government can avoid erecting barriers to energy development, expect continued growth.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

Sean Hackbarth  Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.Sections of pipe for the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma in 2013. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

In March, hundreds of students were arrested after chaining themselves to the White House fence to protest the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian oil sands crude and Bakken shale oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Groups like XL Dissent and 350.org want you to believe that this proves that young people are in lockstep opposition to the pipeline. Earthguradians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez told Politico, “I think when the public sees college students coming out and getting arrested people can say the youth came out. We were here. Because our generation will be the most impacted by whatever decision is made by the government.”

These protestors are actually outliers, a Pew Poll finds. Not only is the Keystone XL pipeline universally supported 61% to 27%, but younger people strongly support it too.

Pew broke its poll down into a number of segments, two of the youngest groups, the “Young Outsiders” and the “Next Generation Left” both support the pipeline. Keystone XL wins with Young Outsiders 59% to 29%, and the Next Generation Left supports it 62% to 28%.

 Pew Poll, June 26, 2014, on Keystone XLChart: Pew Poll, June 26, 2014, on Keystone XL

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake concludes that these voters “who see themselves as environmentally conscious, pro-wind and pro-solar don't believe that Keystone runs contrary to that ultimate goal.”

The State Department came to a similar conclusion in its environmental analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline. It found that it will have minimal effects on the environment.

As the American Action Forum’s Doug Hochberg writes, given the current economic conditions facing younger people, supporting a job-creating energy infrastructure project makes sense:

It shouldn’t be shocking that young people are interested in jobs when 12.6 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed in the so-called economic recovery. Young people want jobs and an economy that is moving forward, but the denial of Keystone just highlights the administration’s failure to provide either. 

Construction of the southern leg of the pipeline has created thousands of jobs and given boosts to local economies. If the President finally gives the go-ahead to constructing the northern leg, it will create thousands of additional jobs and help more local economies.

Younger voters see how the building the “safest oil pipeline built in America to date” strikes the right balance between improved energy security, job creation, and environmental protection.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.