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1:33 PM, Feb 3, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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The Keystone Pipeline, which has been studied for more than five years, will be studied some more.  A State Department study was generally thought to be the conclusive and it has now been delivered. But we are told by the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, that there is more studying to be done.  McDonough said, on Sunday morning television, that President Obama:

… would decide once the Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Department and other federal experts offer their assessments of the State Department review, as well as their own analysis.

One wonders why the studies could not have been done simultaneously with EPA, the Energy Department, the State Department, and the White House all working against the same deadline.  Maybe in a basement, somewhere, with pizza sent in for dinner. In most of the world, deadlines are a means to getting things done or determining that they shouldn’t be done. And deadlines are helpful to those with an interest in the decision. But Washington operates according to its own rhythms.  When asked about the timing:

… McDonough offered no word how soon Obama may rule.

Meanwhile, as Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason of Reuters, are reporting:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will consult with eight government agencies over the next three months about the broader national security, economic and environmental impacts of the project before deciding whether he thinks it should go ahead.

Lest one think that Washington cannot get anything done speedily, there is the example of a tax increase on home heating fuel which Congress slapped onto its mammoth farm fill last week. In the midst, incidentally, of a nationwide cold spell.

Why the farm bill?  Because it:

… offered legislators a chance to short-circuit the usual legislative process and avoid the kind of scrutiny that accompanies a stand-alone bill.

Indeed, it was not raised at all during the debate on the House floor last week.

The tax was neither debated, nor studied, as Jacqueline Klimas of the Washington Times reports, and even retiring Representative Henry Waxman: 

… did not want the program to be slipped into the massive bill without more scrutiny [saying a] GAO audit raised questions that needed answers.

That audit, according to Waxman, suggested that the agency which would be getting the money from the tax increase, the National Oilheat Research Alliance, had a record of using such funding, “... primarily to run public relations campaigns.” 

And that’s how they do business in Washington.

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