All but lost in the furor surrounding last week's House vote to fund the government without Obamacare was an anniversary that is meaningful in terms of the nation's energy future: the fifth anniversary of TransCanada Corp. filing its permit to begin construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline in the United States.
So Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry, long the pivotal point man for Keystone in the House, told Newsmax he is offering his own bill to "deem the pipeline approved."
GOP lawmakers will attach the Terry language passed earlier in the House to the debt-ceiling bill offered by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that contains no funding for Obamacare.
"Nothing has changed because our president refuses to say yes or no on whether to go ahead with the pipeline," Terry told Newsmax, noting the anniversary. "In the process, we are missing a major opportunity to make America energy-secure."
Eight-termer Terry, who spoke shortly after returning home to his Omaha district, comes from a state where construction of Keystone would have a positive economic impact. One of three senior Republican members of the House Energy Committee, he has overseen no less than 11 hearings on the pipeline.
Were the president to approve Keystone, Terry noted, "it would mean that 1,000-2,000 Nebraskans go to work in new jobs, and they would cover a variety of trades.
"But that's not all. TransCanada would be required to pay property taxes. I'm sure the county and local school boards in those communities would not mind the additional revenue."
The portion of Keystone that impacts Nebraska would be built just west of Omaha. Terry and other Keystone backers point out that since the original permits were filed, Obama has approved another cross-border pipeline. Completed in 2010, the Alberta Clipper delivers crude oil from Canada to Superior, Wis.
Upon its approval, Terry points out, the administration said that the project would create jobs, lessen America's dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our relationship with Canada.
The Keystone XL system currently has two missing links: the Northern Route, from Alberta's oil sands region to Steele City Neb., and the Gulf Coast Project, from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast.
The Gulf Coast portion, which needed no presidential permit, is nearing completion.
But it is the Northern Route that is controversial among the environmental community.
In January of last year, following protests from environmentalists that the pipeline would have a negative impact on Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sand Hills, President Obama rejected TransCanada's application.
"He did so after approving Phase One and Phase Two," Terry said, "The only reason I can see is that it was an election year and the uproar was created by the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other supporters of his."
"There was no reason at all," Terry said, that Obama could not give his approval now. As he told us, "Look, there are four official studies, 15,000 pages in total, concluding there is no negative environmental impact here. TransCanada actually changed the initial route a bit to the west so there would be no negative impact. And they have met all new standards and agreed to 57 additional changes in the pipeline construction to prevent leaks."
Terry has written several letters to the president and, he said, "I received no response. I would love to meet the president but I have never had a single meeting with him in more than four years."
He added that he had several meetings with Bill Clinton during his presidency, in both the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
"President Clinton would have had Keystone up and running by now," said Terry.
At this point, it seems obvious President Obama is not headed in that direction on Keystone. The efforts of Lee Terry and House Republicans to nudge him that way are likely to be among the most spirited House GOP efforts in the closing months of this session of Congress.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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