Senate Republicans yesterday told President Obama to release his partisan stranglehold on the Keystone XL Pipeline project, and backed up their demands with new legislation to force quick action.
“Unfortunately, it’s pretty apparent the President has decided to delay this past the election,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.), one of nearly 40 sponsors of a bill ordering Obama to act within 60 days.
“If I were speculating about the political calculations, I guess I would conclude that he’s looked along the pipeline [route] and concluded he’s not likely to carry any of those states. And by delaying it, he’s obviously making an effort to curry favor with environmental activists who are skeptical, or beyond skeptical, downright opposed, to this project,” McConnell said.
“If the administration would simply get out of the way and let it go forward, it would create jobs almost immediately. Lots of jobs,” McConnell said. Following years of delays on the $7 billion project due to environmental studies and other regulatory obligations, the Obama administration recently again pushed back a December action date until 2013.
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the administration is unnecessarily delaying the largest infrastructure project in the country that is shovel-ready.
“President Obama has the opportunity of creating 20,000 new jobs now,” Lugar said. “Incredibly, he has delayed a decision until after the 2012 election, apparently in fear of offending a part of his political base, and even risking the ire of construction unions who support the pipeline.”
TransCanada would run the pipeline from Canada to Texas by way of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, carrying 700,000 barrels of oil a day. In addition to the 20,000 high-wage jobs, the project would bring millions of dollars to local communities through property taxes.
The administration now says the pipeline needs to be rerouted around the environmentally sensitive Nebraska Sand Hills, and while TransCanada has agreed to reroute the pipeline, the State Department is insisting that new environmental reviews be conducted.
“This bill respects the Nebraska process to protect the Sand Hills, while providing a common-sense approach to bring friendly oil and jobs to the U.S. without unnecessary delay,” said Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska. “Now that TransCanada has agreed to change the pipeline route in Nebraska, it makes sense to ensure the President’s decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline is not delayed for political purposes.”
The proposed legislation directs the President to make a decision on the needed permit within 60 days for all portions excluding Nebraska, which would later be determined by state lawmakers. If the President fails to act before the deadline, the permit would be automatically granted.
“Building the Keystone XL will be good for the economy, good for national security, and good for Texas,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “This bill requires the President to decide whether or not that’s good enough for him, rather than allowing him to stall until after the election.”
Thousands of environmentalists, with the support of some Hollywood celebrities, have staged protests at the White House this year opposing the project, and have threatened to withhold campaign support should the project proceed.
Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota said moving forward with the project will strengthen national and energy security, and get the U.S. back on a healthy economic track.
“Federal approval for Keystone XL is something that will cost our nation not one penny,” Hoeven said. “What it will do is create assurances in markets that the energy we need to power our nation will be there in the future. It is important to get this project going, so we can get Americans back to work and secure an important energy resource for our country.”
Added Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia: “By delaying this permit, President Obama is putting his own reelection ahead of America’s economy and energy security. After years of review and environmental evaluation, it’s time to move forward on this project.”
The permitting and approval process has dragged on for three years, and TransCanada has already agreed to 57 special conditions imposed by the State Department, said Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
“Unless President Obama has strong and specific objections, it is time for the project to go forward,” Johnson said.