Keystone Shutdown Highlights Fox's Dubious Claims About Pipeline Safety

TransCanada Corp. recently announced that it has temporarily shut down the existing portion of its Keystone pipeline due to safety concerns. Fox News figures previously attacked the Obama administration for delaying a decision on the Keystone pipeline extension because of environmental and safety concerns, claiming that the project posed no such threats.


Obama Defers Keystone XL Pipeline Approval, Citing Environmental And Safety Concerns

Nov. 2011: Obama Admin. Announces Delay Of Keystone XL Approval. The Washington Post reported on November 10, 2011, that the Obama administration would delay a decision on approving the Keystone XL pipeline, an extension of an existing pipeline that TransCanada operates. The Post reported that officials “had once promised a decision ... by year's end,” but said they had to “extend their review of the 1,700-mile pipeline to address Nebraskans' objections to building across the state's sensitive Sandhills region,” which includes the Ogallala Aquifer, “a critical source of drinking and irrigation water for state residents.” The Post further reported:

“Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process,” President Obama said in a statement Thursday, “we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.” [The Washington Post, 11/10/11]

Jan. 2012: Obama Rejects TransCanada's Permit To Build Keystone XL Pipeline, Saying GOP Deadline Was “Rushed And Arbitrary.” The Washington Post reported on January 18 that Obama had announced he was rejecting TransCanada's application for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline, citing  a " 'rushed and arbitrary deadline' set by congressional Republicans." The Post continued:

Obama said that the Feb. 21 deadline, set by Congress as part of the two-month payroll tax cut extension, made it impossible to adequately review the project proposed by TransCanada. But he left the door open to the possibility that a new proposal might pass regulatory muster.


The decision Wednesday and the language Obama used made clear that the White House, far from pushing off the issue until after the election, as it once hoped to do, was fully engaged in a battle with pipeline proponents. The president defended his administration's record on energy security while pledging to protect the “health and safety” of Americans. [The Washington Post, 1/18/12]

Oct. 2012: TransCanada Temporarily Shuts Existing Keystone Pipeline, Citing Safety Concerns

AP: “TransCanada Corp. Has Temporarily Shut Down Its Existing 2,100-Mile Keystone Pipeline After Tests Showed Possible Safety Issues.” The Associated Press reported on October 18 that TransCanada had temporarily shut down the existing portion of the Keystone pipeline “after tests showed possible safety issues.” The article noted that one oil analyst said the suspension should not affect gas prices, but that “it may put pipeline safety and the environmental hazards that come with transporting petroleum back on the map for a while.” [Associated Press, 10/18/12]

Fox Figures Previously Dismissed Safety Concerns Over Keystone Pipeline

Fox Contributor Gallagher Mocked Environmental Concerns Over Keystone XL Pipeline: “Aww, The Water May Get Dirty.” On the November 11, 2011, edition of America Live, Fox News contributor Mike Gallagher mocked environmental concerns over the pipeline, saying in a sarcastic tone, “Aww, the water may get dirty.” [Fox News, America Live, 11/11/11]

Fox News Contributor Krauthammer Said Keystone XL Expansion Cancellation Was “Purely A Political Decision On The Part Of Obama.” “On December 7, 2011, edition of Special Report, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer responded to host Chris Wallace's question about the Keystone XL pipeline by claiming that the decision not to approve the pipeline expansion was ” purely a political decision on the part of Obama" and that a “three-year study by the State Department found in two very large reports no serious damage or danger” posed by the pipeline. [Fox News, Special Report, 12/7/11, via Nexis]

Fox News Regular Trump: Keystone Is “Not An Environmental Problem At All, In Any Way, Shape, Or Form.” On the January 18 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, regular Fox News guest Donald Trump discussed the pipeline with host Greta van Susteren, saying in part: “I guess President Obama took care of the environmentalists. But [the decision not to issue a permit] is absolutely terrible, and it is not an environmental problem at all, in any way, shape, or form.” [Fox News, On the Record, 1/18/12, via Media Matters]

Fox's Tantaros: “The Only Environmental Concerns That [Obama's] Worried About Are The Environmentalist[s] That He Wants To Vote For Him.” On the Feb. 24 edition of The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros responded to co-host Juan Williams' assertion that Obama wanted to study environmental concerns associated with the pipeline by saying, “The only environmental concerns that [Obama's] worried about are the environmentalist[s] that he wants to vote for him.” [Fox News, The Five, 2/24/12, via Nexis]

On Fox, WSJ Editor Said Pipelines Are “Safe” And That Concerns About Them Aren't “Really Supported By Science.” On the October 29, 2011, edition of Fox News' WSJ Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot asked fellow editor Mary Anastasia O'Grady, “Are these pipelines safe, Mary?” O'Grady responded: “Yes, they're safe. It's funny, because in Nebraska, there are 1200 miles of pipeline already running through this area that -- the sacred aquifer area. The science there, the scare tactics that they're using, I don't think are really supported by science.” [Fox News, WSJ Editorial Report, 10/29/11, via Nexis]

For more on how Fox distorted the facts on Keystone XL, see here, here, and here.

Media Matters intern Brendan Karet contributed to this report.