GOP to Obama: Time to Approve Keystone Pipeline

Image: GOP to Obama: Time to Approve Keystone Pipeline

Friday, 31 Jan 2014 10:08 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Republicans on Friday demanded that President Barack Obama approve the long-stalled Keystone XL Pipeline after a State Department report found that the $5.4 billion project's impact on climate change would be minimal.

"President Obama is out of excuses," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "The fact that he has let a final decision on the Keystone pipeline project — and the more than 100,000 jobs that come with it — languish for more than five years is economic malpractice.

"Middle-class families and small businesses continue to struggle in this economy, and the president's refusal to back this job-creating project is hurting our economy," the Ohio Republican said. "If President Obama wants to make this a 'year of action,' he will stand up to the extreme left in his own party, stand with the overwhelming majority of American people, and approve this critical project."

In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the State Department's report "once again confirms that there is no reason for the White House to continue stalling construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline."

"So, Mr. President, no more stalling — no more excuses," added McConnell, who represents Kentucky. "Please pick up that pen you've been talking so much about and make this happen. Americans need these jobs."

In its final technical review, the State Department found the Canada-to-U.S. oil pipeline would not greatly increase carbon emissions because the oil sands in Alberta would be developed anyway, a department official said on Friday.

The White House said late on Friday that a decision on the pipeline will come only after a careful review of  the study as well as other comments and information.

"A decision on whether the project is in the national interest will be made only after careful consideration of the (State Department environment impact study) and other pertinent information, comments from the public, and views of other agency heads," said Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman.

"The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement includes a range of estimates of the project's climate impacts, and that information will now need to be closely evaluated by Secretary (of State John) Kerry and other relevant agency heads in the weeks ahead," Lehrich said.

The pipeline's fate comes down to broader questions about whether the project is in the U.S. national interest, weighing factors such as energy needs and diplomatic relations.

"No matter what the [Supplemental Environmental Impact Study] says, it would be premature for either side to tear down the goalposts because there is still a long part of the game left to be played," Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told Bloomberg News. The center opposes the pipeline.

TransCanada applied more than five years ago for a permit to build the pipeline through the U.S. heartland, connecting the oil sands with refineries along the coast of Texas and Louisiana.

The pipeline's planned 830,000-barrel-a-day capacity would represent a fraction of U.S. oil imports, though Keystone has spawned a multimillion-dollar lobbying fight and is forcing Obama to choose between angering an ally in Canada or his supporters in the environmental movement.

"Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil," the report said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the impact study is "another stop in the process" and declined to say on Friday when Obama would make his final determination.

Republicans have long argued that the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada through the Midwest to refineries in Texas, would create jobs, boost the nation's sagging economy, and decrease reliance on oil from the Middle East.

"The Keystone XL Pipeline is the single largest shovel-ready project in America, ready to go, but for years President Obama and his hard-left allies have stalled these jobs in a maze of red tape," McConnell said.

"But if the president meant what he said this week about 'a year of action,' he'll act now on this important project that won't cost taxpayers a dime to build but will bring thousands of private-sector jobs to Americans who desperately need them."

McConnell added that he would back legislation sponsored by GOP Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska to get the pipeline built and preclude environmental groups from stalling it via the courts.

"There is overwhelming bipartisan support for these jobs," the minority leader said.

For his part, Terry said that if president did not approve the project quickly, it would be "a disgrace" that would "allow extreme ideologues to obstruct this critical project that will create jobs and help us down the path of energy security."

Terry noted earlier this week that Obama did not mention Keystone in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said the State Department's report "reinforces what Senate Republicans have been telling the president all along: This energy will be developed regardless of whether or not the pipeline is approved.

"The only question is whether our closest trading partner ships the energy and jobs to China or the United States," Thune said. "The jobs, investment, and energy security provided by this pipeline are clearly in our national interest."

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the State Department's report marked "the fifth study that contradicts with the climate activists' warnings and attempts to kill America's oil and gas industry.

"Approving the Keystone is one thing the president can do today with his pen that will create thousands of well-paying jobs and help us take another step towards energy independence."

Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said that the White House had "wasted yet another year in extraneous studies instead of getting Americans back to work and moving toward energy security and independence."

"Once again, while giving lip service to creating jobs, the administration chose duplicate and unnecessary environmental studies over job creation," he added. "There are no more excuses for delay."

While Friday's report deviated from a March draft in some ways, the revisions are not as sweeping as opponents had sought.

The report includes a new analysis of pipeline-safety issues. It incorporates data from a July 2010 rupture of a 30-inch pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc. in Michigan that spilled more than 843,000 gallons into a creek feeding the Kalamazoo River.

It also includes a discussion of new measures to avoid and respond to spills.

The State Department also deepened its analysis of market forces that may affect future development of Canada's oil sands crude.

Still, the agency endorsed its earlier finding that the rejection of any single project to deliver Canadian oil won't significantly impact the rate of development of oil sands crude or the refining of heavy crude on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"When you add all that up, if they can't show this project is in our national interest, what is?" Cindy Schild, senior manager for refining and oil sands policy at the American Petroleum Institute, asked Bloomberg in an interview. "The only thing left if for the president to decide that this project is in our national interest."

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