Human Events posed seven questions to Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who said Tuesday he would continue to work with House Republicans to include language to approve the Keystone XL pipeline in the highway bill when it moves to that chamber for consideration. Republicans made one last final but futile attempt Tuesday to attach the language to a highway-spending bill in the Senate. Hoeven is a former governor of North Dakota, who helped turn the state into a big oil producer, which significantly helped lower that state’s unemployment. He is now a leader in the pipeline battle.
HE: Does the senator think, without Obama’s intervention, that his amendment would have carried the day? How hard did the White House and the Senate Democratic majority press for a “No” vote?
Our Keystone legislation received strong bipartisan support in the Senate. Although it didn’t receive the 60 votes necessary for passage, 56 senators – a majority – voted in favor of the bill. Despite President Obama’s actively lobbying against the bill, we still won the support of 11 Democrats. With the two additional Republican senators who were unable to vote that evening, we actually had the support of 58 senators—only two votes shy for passage. This shows strong bipartisan support by a majority of senators for the Keystone XL project, which we will continue to push for on its merits and in a bipartisan way. With a clear majority vote in the Senate, we believe the bill has momentum, and we will seek out other avenues to ensure it is passed for the American people.
HE: What made him think he would get a good, bipartisan response, with 11 Democrats backing his bill?
Democrats with a good understanding of the need for strong energy policy in our country, especially in these difficult economic times, recognized the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline. That was especially true of Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), as well as Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, whose state of Montana will directly benefit from the pipeline’s route through their state.
HE: Isn’t this a jobs bill as well an energy bill, and what unions are backing the Keystone XL Pipeline and opposing President Obama? And how many jobs might it develop?
It is absolutely a big-time jobs bill. The Perryman Group, which did an initial analysis of the project, expected it to create up to 20,000 jobs during the construction phase and thousands of spin-off jobs in manufacturing, services and other areas. Think about it. They will be laying 1,700 miles of steel pipe at a cost of $7 billion, and once it’s in the ground, it will need to be serviced, maintained and monitored. There have been attempts to minimize the number of jobs the Keystone XL pipeline project would create, but they just aren’t credible.
For example, the vast majority of the pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline will be made here in North America, half of it in Arkansas, by U.S. workers. 90 percent of all other construction materials will come from companies in the United States and Canada, which accounts for the strong support the project has gained from unions.
Apart from the jobs, however, this is a matter of national security and North American energy independence, a goal our country has been striving toward for decades and that has always had strong bipartisan support and the support of the American people.
HE: Were the GOP leadership folks all behind him?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), all of the GOP leadership and the entire caucus were 100 percent behind our bill. This is a private-sector jobs creation project that will grow our economy, generate revenues for states and the nation and help reduce our deficit and debt. That is at the core of the Republican agenda.
HE: Does he buy into any of the excuses given by President Obama for not going ahead with the Keystone XL Pipeline at this point?
No, our bill addressed the president’s concerns. Specifically, it set no timeline on Nebraska’s work to identify an acceptable route and it included all of the strong environmental protections in the original proposal. It allowed the project to advance while that work was being completed.
HE: Let’s assume, for a moment, that an environmental study of some sort is needed. If he had been president, what would he have done differently from Obama to advance the Pipeline?
In fact, the State Department issued its final environmental impact statement in August, after three years of study, and found no significant impacts from the original project. In a letter to me in July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that the agency would issue a decision by the end of last year.
We believe in strong environmental stewardship and responsible development. The Keystone XL project has built strong safety measures into its design with the newest technology. Additionally, 80 percent of the new Canadian oil sands are being developed “in situ,” meaning, it has a similar carbon footprint and emissions as conventional oil wells. By not building the pipeline that same oil will be produced, but instead of creating jobs in the United States, it will be shipped by tanker to China, where it will be refined at facilities that have less rigorous environmental standards.
Obviously, I would have approved the project in light of the original environmental findings, but at the same time, I would have worked with Nebraska to address their concerns. That does not, however, require bringing the whole project to halt for 18 months, as the president has, delaying job creation and an increased supply of fuel to help hold down the cost of gasoline at the pump for American consumers.
HE: Is it his intention to keep offering this amendment until the end of the session?
Yes, we will work with the House and our colleagues in the Senate to make sure this issue stays squarely before the American people, and to ensure the Keystone XL pipeline is approved as soon as possible.