By Guy Page
Vermont is not among the 21 states suing Pres. Joe Biden in federal court for cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline project.
Virginia and Ohio are the two closest states whose Attorney Generals filed suit March 17 in U.S. District Court in Galveston, Texas.
“Within hours of taking office, President Biden issued an Executive Order that purports to revoke the permit on the grounds that he has ‘an ambitious plan’ to ‘reduce harmful emissions and create good clean-energy jobs’ and that this completed pipeline would ‘not be consistent with [his] Administration’s economic and climate imperatives,’” the suit says. But, the suit continues, revocation of the Keystone XL pipeline permit is a regulation of interstate and international commerce, which must run through Congress.
No part of the midwestern Keystone pipeline nor its spurs touch Vermont. Our natural gas comes from Canada and the northeastern U.S.. Natural gas is the #1 fuel source for New England electricity, and oil and natural gas dominate the region’s heating fuel market.
Furthermore, Vermont state government is hostile towards fossil fuel development. Vermont was the first state (2012) to ban mining of oil and natural gas by the practice of hydro-fracturing, AKA “fracking.” In general, any challenges to renewable power, particularly those posed by nuclear or fossil fuel energy, are resisted by the State of Vermont. Last January Attorney General T.J. Donovan led a coalition of 13 states opposing construction of an oil and gas pipeline on federal lands.
In 2019, bills introduced in both the Vermont House (H51) and Senate (H66) would have banned new pipeline construction. The Senate bill was reviewed by the Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Lead sponsor Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) reportedly told the committee pipeline construction would impede progress towards addressing climate change, “one of the greatest challenges of our time.” Neither bill was passed out of committee. No specific legislation on pipeline construction has been introduced this year, in part because the Chittenden-Addison County Vermont Gas pipeline installed in 2017 cost more than expected due to stiff legal challenges – some of which are ongoing.
The strategy of states’ attorneys general joining forces to stop the president was raised to new heights during the Trump administration. NBC News reported in November, 2020 that the ploy had been used 138 times – almost twice the number of suits brought against the eight-year Obama presidency.