More than 145 members of the House signed a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday requesting immediate approval for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
“All studies show that this project will have minimal environmental impact and a substantial economic benefit to our country,” said the letter, spearheaded by Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Given the positive impact of domestic energy on jobs and the economy, you must come to the conclusion that this is in the national interest.”
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman recently approved a revised route for the pipeline that puts the long-delayed project squarely in the Obama Administration’s hands. The $7 billion project would carry up to 800,000 barrels of oil a day from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Houston and other Texas ports.
Last week more than half the Senate urged quick approval of the pipeline, ramping up pressure on Obama to move ahead with the project soon after he promised in his inaugural address to respond vigorously to the threat of climate change.
Environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers argue that approving the pipeline would directly contradict that promise, citing the oil's high "carbon footprint,” and potential for a possible spill.
Fighting global warming has been among the top priorities of former Senator John Kerry, who was confirmed as secretary of state on Tuesday. The State Department has jurisdiction over the pipeline because it crosses a U.S. border.
The Massachusetts Democrat said he plans to divest holdings in dozens of companies in his family's vast financial portfolio to avoid conflicts of interest. They include two Canadian companies, Suncor and Cenovus Energy Inc., both of which have publicly supported the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Obama administration has twice delayed approval of the 1,700-mile project, which Calgary-based TransCanada first proposed in late 2008. The State Department delayed the project in late 2011 after environmental groups and others raised concerns about a proposed route through environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska. Obama blocked it again in January 2012, saying his concerns about the Nebraska route had not been resolved.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the State Department was still reviewing the project and he did not want to "get ahead of that process."
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