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Dems side with GOP to pressure Obama on Keystone

An unusual alliance.

An unusual alliance of Democratic and Republican senators is pressuring President Barack Obama to put an end to bureaucratic delays and approve the Keystone XL pipeline now that a new route has been chosen to avoid ecologically sensitive areas.

‚??We ask you not to move the goalposts as opponents of this project have pressed you to do,‚?Ě said 53 senators including five Democrats in a Jan. 23 letter to Obama. ‚??We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security.‚?Ě

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) is the lead author on the letter that was signed by every Republican in the Senate plus Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska, Joe Donnelly of North Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Warner of Virginia and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

The State Department has been reviewing an application from TransCanada for four years to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada across the U.S. border and into Texas.

The issue has deeply divided Obama‚??s political base on whether the project should be approved. Environmental groups oppose the pipeline, citing climate change concerns, and have staged numerous protests in front of the White House, while unions support construction because it is expected to create thousands of jobs.

A wild card in the decision-making process is Obama‚??s Secretary of State Nominee John Kerry. During his Jan. 24 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the former senator gave no indication of where he stood on the matter, although he consistently sides with environmentalists on issues of climate change.

‚??There is a statutory process with regards to the review and that is currently ongoing,‚?Ě Kerry told the committee after limited questions on the pipeline. ‚??It will not be long before that comes across my desk, and I will make the appropriate judgments about it.‚?Ě

The Republican-controlled House last session passed numerous bills in an attempt to force Obama to expedite the process and approve the pipeline, but the legislation was ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The Obama administration last year objected to the pipeline‚??s route through Nebraska, forcing Gov. Dave Heineman to reroute construction, a process that was completed last month. Heineman also told Obama his state was prepared to adhere to 57 safety conditions to prevent an oil leak and to address other concerns.

‚??Specifically, the new pipeline route in Nebraska avoids the Sand Hills, which you cited as a concern in your denial,‚?Ě the senators said in their letter to Obama.

‚??The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality determined the pipeline would have minimal environmental impact and would generate significant economic benefits in the state of Nebraska,‚?Ě the senators said. ‚??This is on top of the thousands of good-paying union jobs and millions of dollars in economic development for our country as a whole, none of which cost any taxpayer money.‚?Ě

‚??The pipeline is also a major step toward American energy security. Canada plans to develop this oil resource and the only question is whether we receive the oil from our friend and ally or whether Canada is forced to look for new partners in Asia because we turned them away,‚?Ě the senators said.

A permit from the federal government is required before the $5.3 billion pipeline can cross the national border and transport an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil a day.

The State Department says it will issue a draft environmental assessment before the end of the first quarter in April, a final decision is expected later this summer.

Written By

Audrey Hudson is an award-winning investigative journalist whose enterprise reporting has sparked numerous congressional investigations that led to laws signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She won the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award for Public Service in 2009 for her report on dangerous drug experiments by the federal government on war veterans, which prompted internal investigations and needed reforms within the Veterans Affairs Department. The report also captured first place for investigative reporting by the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a finalist of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences Webby Awards for news and politics. Her breaking stories have been picked up and followed by major news publications and periodicals, including Readers Digest, Washington Monthly, and The Weekly Standard, as well as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Washington Post. With nearly 20 years of experience in Washington as a newspaper reporter and as a Capitol Hill staffer for Western lawmakers, she will now lead Human Events‚?? coverage of energy and environmental issues. A native of Kentucky, Mrs. Hudson has worked inside the Beltway for nearly two decades -- on Capitol Hill as a Senate and House spokeswoman, and most recently at The Washington Times covering Congress, Homeland Security, and the Supreme Court. Audrey‚??s email is AHudson@EaglePub.Co