Energy & Environment

GOP: Make a decision on Keystone, Mr. President

GOP: Make a decision on Keystone, Mr. President

According to North Dakota’s Republican Senator John Hoeven, President Barack Obama’s approach to the Keystone Pipeline XL project corresponds with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.

“He continues to delay it,” Hoeven, a mover and shaker in the effort to get the pipeline built, said in an interview with Human Events. “I think [the administration] has done something like four environmental impact statements. They keep going through the process over and over again.”

An environmental impact statement, or EIS, is one factor taken into consideration by the State Department in determining a project’s national interest. Obama said in June that he would approve the project if it were determined that it wouldn’t lead to increased carbon emissions, and already, the U.S. State Department concluded that building the pipeline would result in no “substantial change in global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The president, however, is convinced otherwise, and continues to test and retest in the hope he’ll get different results.

“82 percent of the American people indicated that they support the pipeline project and want it approved,” Hoeven said, referring to a recent poll conducted by the Harris Corporation. “The president is holding it up because of some extreme environmental interest groups that don’t want to see fossil fuels used as an energy supply.”

The president’s approval is ultimately needed because Keystone XL would cross an international border, originating in Northern Alberta and running all the way to the Gulf Coast. TransCanada Corp., the company set to build the proposed pipeline, originally applied for approval in September 2008, but has been delayed by the decision process for going-on five years.

Hoeven and fellow Republicans have been at the forefront of the fight to get the pipeline approved, with or without the president, and have come close several times.

“We’re continuing to try to find legislation that either approves the project directly or forces the administration to make a decision,” Hoeven said. “The administration pushes back and gets members in the Senate, particularly members of the majority [Democrat] party, to oppose it.”

“We’d actually passed legislation in 2011 that required [Obama] to make a decision on whether or not it was in the national interest,” he went on. “That time he deferred the decision on the basis that he wanted some of the pipeline rerouted through the state of Nebraska. We again tried to pass legislation last year to approve it congressionally, because he continued to delay. That legislation was defeated; we got a majority, 56 votes in the Senate, but you have to get 60 to pass something.”

“Earlier this year,” Hoeven continued, “attached to the Senate budget bill, we got 62 votes, actually passed the measure, calling on the president to approve the project, but the budget has been hung up between the Senate and the House.”

The pipeline has been delayed in part also because of the risks presented by a possible oil spill and the effects it would have on “sensitive areas, sensitive wildlife, or plant species.” Obama issued the following statement in 2011:

“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, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.”

Hoeven said “[The Environmental Protection Agency] put out some comments in regard to the last environmental impact statement that were negative,” and that “it’s a possibility” that he and fellow Keystone proponents will face another challenger in Gina McCarthy, the recently confirmed head of the EPA. McCarthy is known as a staunch activist in the fight to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The State Department determined that environmental issues did not prevent the proposed project from being in the national interest, but concern for the Sandhills region of Nebraska was raised. TransCanada subsequently cooperated with the State Department and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct an environmental assessment “to define the best location for the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska.” A new route was proposed and approved, but permission for the pipeline did not move forward.

In the meantime, Hoeven said “even the State Department itself” admitted tens of thousands of would-be jobs are being lost by the president’s refusal to act.

“In terms of economic activity to build the pipeline,” Hoeven said, “it’s something like 7.9 billion dollars, and it will create hundreds of millions in local, state, and federal tax revenues.”

Obama recently contradicted jobs predictions and challenged TransCanada’s numbers in an interview with The New York Times.

“Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator,” the president said. “There is no evidence that that’s true. The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”

The Keystone Pipeline is designed to carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day. TransCanada expects the project would create about 20,000 jobs when it’s all said and done: 13,000 in construction, 7,000 in manufacturing.

Hoeven said the last time the legislation was put to the vote, 17 of the 62 favorable votes were from Democrats. He said he’s spoken to the president about the pipeline in person on several occasions, and Obama “indicated to me they’ll make a decision before the end of the year.”

Is Hoeven optimistic that the Keystone XL Pipeline project will finally get the approval it needs?

“Well it’s been open up for five years!” he said. “I’m hopeful. But [the president] may turn it down, in which case our only recourse would be to approve it congressionally. We’re going to continue to fight to get it approved, but it’s hard to know how long it’s going to take to do that.”

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