U.S. President Barack Obama’s move last year to delay a decision on a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline extension was widely — and rightly — regarded as self-serving. He was up for re-election and needed to curry favor with the eco-electorate.

This year, with his second term assured, Obama has the chance to restore reasoned and coherent governance to his administration, at least on this file.

According to a new study by Nebraska’s state environmental regulators, TransCanada has complied with the U.S. government’s requirement that it find an alternative route that avoids Nebraska’s Sand Hills region and its crucial aquifer.

In fact, the study indicates that the company has reworked its $5.3-billion U.S. project to bypass numerous ecologically sensitive areas in the state. Keystone XL, which is part of a more extensive 1,678-mile system stretching from Alberta to Texas, will cross fewer areas of threatened or endangered species habitat and avoid many regions with fragile soil.

The company also has addressed most every concern raised by environmental groups and citizen advocates, agreeing to dozens of special conditions.

According to TransCanada, the physical and chemical properties of the crude oil to be carried in Keystone XL “will be similar to the light and heavy crude oils already being transported safely in pipelines across the United States.”

That is no small thing, considering that North America’s energy infrastructure with its hundreds of pipelines is like a tangled ball of wool in its interconnectedness.

Finally, TransCanada has committed itself to taking responsibility, technical and financial, for any spills.

Obama has to decide whether he’s going to continue to exploit Keystone XL for partisan purposes or do what’s in the national interest of the United States — less dependence on Middle East oil and respectful relations with Canada.

Editorial by the Ottawa Citizen, Ontario

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