Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 27, 2015

Keystone XL Pipeline Deadline Sought by 11 Senate Democrats

Heitkamp (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic senators who favor completing the Keystone XL pipeline, including some of the party’s most vulnerable senators up for re-election, are once again prodding the White House to make up its mind.

In a new letter to President Barack Obama, 11 Democrats are making a pre-recess push for a May 31 deadline for action. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota spearheaded the new letter along with new Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Warner of Virginia, Kay Hagan of North Carolina joined Montana Democrats Jon Tester and John Walsh in signing on to the letter with Heitkamp and Landrieu. Begich, Pryor, Landrieu, Hagan and Walsh are all facing the voters this fall in states lost by Obama in 2012.

The senators also want Secretary of State John Kerry to move swiftly to report on the national interest determination related to the Keystone project after a current period for comment runs out.

“Given that there has been little change from previous conclusions reached, we believe that an ultimate decision should not be delayed any longer than is reasonably necessary,” the senators wrote.

The full text of the letter to Obama appears below:

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to request that you use your executive authority to implement an explicit timeline for Secretary of State John Kerry to make a national interest determination on the Keystone XL pipeline permit application. At the expiration of the current 90-day comment and consultation period for certain federal agencies, there should be a date certain no later than 15 days after that date for Secretary Kerry to provide you with his national interest determination recommendation. Finally, we ask that you commit to making your final decision on the permit application no later than May 31, 2014.

We respect the need for a final 30-day public comment period, a period that closed on Friday, March 7, 2014. It is important that at every step of this process that the public and other stakeholders are able to provide their feedback in response to the Environmental Impact Statements released through the State Department as part of the permit application process.  We also respect the need for relevant federal agencies and officials to weigh-in with Secretary Kerry, pursuant to Executive Order 13337, so that they may express their views and assistance in order for Secretary Kerry to make a fully informed national interest determination.

However, this is a process that has now gone on well past five years, has involved two applications, five federal reviews, multiple open comment periods, and numerous opportunities for consultation and comment  at either public forums or at staff-level meetings. The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), released by the State Department on January 31, 2014, was well over 2,000 pages and included an expanded analysis of potential oil releases; an expanded climate change analysis; an updated oil market analysis incorporating new economic modeling; an expanded analysis of rail transport; and additional analysis regarding alternative modes of transportation beyond rail.

After taking all of this additional information into account, the Final SEIS still reached virtually the same conclusion as previous reviews, that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil-prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs and supply-demand scenarios.”  Also, over half of the extraction today employs more traditional in situ drilling technologies, and will be used to recover a large majority of the resource. Given that there has been little change from previous conclusions reached, we believe that an ultimate decision should not be delayed any longer than is reasonably necessary.

This process has been exhaustive in its time, breadth, and scope. It has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify. This is an international project that will provide our great friend and ally Canada, a direct route to our refineries. These refineries were specifically built to process and refine heavy crude, and Canadian crude will help replace heavy crude imports from unstable and unfriendly countries like Venezuela. Canada has done its part and has been a willing and patient partner throughout this process. This project will enhance our relationship with Canada and increase our drive towards North American energy security and independence, and there is no consultation required to arrive at that conclusion.

Given all these facts, we believe that after the 90-day period in which certain executive agencies and officials can provide comment and consultation to Secretary of State Kerry has expired, there should be a date certain no later than 15 days after that date for Secretary Kerry to provide you with his national interest determination recommendation.

We cannot miss another construction season, given the long cold winter this year along the Keystone XL route and the time required for ground thaw, we could be looking at a very short season. We need a definitive timeline laid out, a timeline that reduces the comment period for federal agencies, officials and other entities. A timeline that requires Secretary Kerry to present you with his national interest determination shortly after the comment and consultation period ends. This decision must not drag on into the summer.

The time to act is now Mr. President, please use your executive authority to expedite this process to a swift conclusion and a final decision so that we can all move forward on other energy infrastructure needs in this country. We ask that you bring this entire process to an end no later than May 31, 2014, and that your final decision be the right one, finding that the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.


  • Sadie Holly

    Glad to see my senators did not sign this. Will it cost or profit this country – let’s see a very long pipeline above the surface of land , a good target for terrorists – will the company pay to protect it, or will it be the cost of the US, not to mention they are having the land owners responsible for any leaks – so that the billions of profits can not be touched for clean up, just the moderate income of hte land owners.
    Nope, bad idea – no profit for the US,only cost. .

    • DJMiles

      You are so lost. .should understand what all benefits the pipeline brings before posting.

      • jackmur2012

        What are the benefits of the pipeline. Please explain them all in detail…………..

        • DJMiles

          50,000 jobs,25% savings per barrel and no more train or truck oil spills like we been seeing weekly. ..The keystone pipeline essentially brings the oil down from Canada right to the refineries instead of shipping by truck,train or ship.The added benefits of the pipeline won’t be seen until 2017 when we get a president that’s not so corrupt then we will see a huge decline in gas prices right now Obama exports all our oil and that’s why gas prices are the highest of any president in history.

          • jackmur2012

            This tar sands oil is earmarked for export as well. Tar Sands oil emits almost 3 times the carbon than the usual oil. The danger of contamination to drinking water, soil contamination and wildlife is not worth the risk. It will have no effect at all on American Oil Prices. It will have an effect on profits for big oil execs. Your jobs estimate must be from some other planet. The estimated job range is between 5 to 13 thousand and more than likely that is overstated.

          • DJMiles

            It’s 2014 the technology that exists in the current legs of keystone is phenomena…A leak would instantly be detected and flow would be cut off….and yes 50,000 jobs u r talking about building 100’s of miles of this pipeline in less then 2 years. Anyway the keystone debate is finished it passed the house a long time ago and is being voted on in the Senate this coming week…

  • GFRF

    Obama and his minions could give a damn about this country.
    Low cost Energy is the foundation of a good economy!

    • jackmur2012

      I hope that you are referring to low cost renewable energy and not fossil fuel that is sending uncontrollable carbon emissions into our atmosphere and creating global warming.

      • DJMiles

        If you are worried about emissions then you must again blame Obama…Thru the Bush years we invested billions in ethanol fuel E-85 with is only 15% oil 85% ethanol from corn at a fraction of the cost.E-85 produces 97% less emissions the Regular unleaded however the big oil companies that fund political campaigns bought Obama and E-85 is very limited and at a high price.

        • jackmur2012

          “Right now, there is no clear data that shows corn ethanol has the effect of reducing greenhouse gas emission.”

          • DJMiles

            Last thing anyone needs to worry about is global warming we just had the coldest winter on record.I think everyone in the world should go buy 50 cans of aerosol and spray them into the air before the planet is a sheet of ice.

          • jackmur2012

            I realize that Republicans have trouble with facts. But here is one that you can study and learn. the melting Arctic – spurred by global warming – is causing the
            weather’s steering flow, the jet stream, to become more extreme. This
            extreme jet stream – rather than zipping around the world in a straight
            circle (right below) – is more frequently meandering off course (left
            below) and getting stuck in place, sending bitter, prolonged blasts of
            cold southward and conversely, see-sawing strong heat domes northward.
            It’s a fascinating paradox: global warming as the culprit for
            bone-chilling cold.

    • Harvey Kahler

      The US spends hundreds of millions subsidizing fossil fuels; and that enables “low-cost” energy ignoring the secondary health and environmental costs born by the public. We aren’t supposed to pay attention to the guy (one of the Kochs?) behind the curtain.

  • Thomas Brady

    As this video demonstrates, Hussein Obama is the primary perpetrator and criminal fraudster behind Obamacare:

  • Harvey Kahler

    Do what’s right, even if it means being a one-term Senator. At least you can look at yourself in a mirror. Money may win the next battle; but it would win this time too if you fear it.

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