Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Report Builds Pressure on Obama to Allow Keystone Pipeline

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John A. Boehner, along with other Republicans and some Democrats, urged President Barack Obama on Friday to greenlight the Keystone XL oil pipeline after a State Department environmental assessment showed the project would have a negligible environmental impact.

“This report from the Obama administration once again confirms that there is no reason for the White House to continue stalling construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline,”McConnell said in a release. “So, Mr. President, no more stalling — no more excuses. Please pick up that pen you’ve been talking so much about and make this happen. Americans need these jobs.”

The report concluded that the project is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas, based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs and supply-demand scenarios. Oil sands require more energy to process and result in higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil fields.

The finding appears to pass the test Obama laid out in June, when he said: “Our national interest will be served only if this project doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” At the White House Friday, spokesman Jay Carney cautioned in advance of the report that it would be followed by a public comment period and was not the end of the process.

“If the President meant what he said this week about ‘a year of action,’ he’ll act now on this important project that won’t cost taxpayers a dime to build but will bring thousands of private sector jobs to Americans who desperately need them,” McConnell said, referring to Tuesday’s State of the Union address. “There is overwhelming bipartisan support for these jobs and I will continue to push for immediate consideration of bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Lee Terry  that will get the pipeline built and preclude radical environmental groups from tying it up in the courts, even if the President were to eventually approve the project.”

Boehener said that given the report, “President Obama is out of excuses.”

“The fact that he has let a final decision on the Keystone pipeline project — and the more than 100,000 jobs that come with it — languish for more than five years is economic malpractice,” the Ohio Republicn continued.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, also called for action.

“Earlier this week, President Obama told the nation he’s committed to creating new jobs.  It’s time for President Obama to use his famous pen and follow up his words with action.” Cornyn said. “This latest report is further evidence that there is no need for the President to delay his approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Some Democrats also praised the report — including a few facing tough re-election fights, such as Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and other moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

“Today’s Environmental Impact Statement confirms what Alaskans already know — there are ways to safely and responsibly diversify our domestic energy supply,” Begich said in a release. “The Keystone XL pipeline is a common sense project that offers a secure supply of energy from a trusted ally, creates much-needed jobs and an overall boost to our economy. Now the Administration must take these findings seriously and move this project forward. I will continue to demand the President approve this critical energy project while also reminding him that we cannot truly secure our energy future without developing Alaska’s energy potential both in the Arctic Ocean and National Petroleum Reserve.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said the report “recognizes what I have repeatedly stated — regardless of whether this pipeline is built or not, the Canadian oil-sands will be developed.”

Other Democrats called the analysis flawed and said the pipeline would have an impact on the environment.

“While still flawed, this environmental review recognizes that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline could have a significant effect on carbon pollution, depending on variables such as oil prices and transportation costs,” said Rep Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., who is co-chairman of the Bicameral Task Force for Climate Change.  “Keystone XL is the oil industry’s number one priority because it is critical to their plans to triple production of tar sands, the most carbon-polluting oil on the planet.  Approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be a huge step in the wrong direction on climate change — a step America, and the world, can’t afford to take.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also wasn’t convinced.

“I will not be satisfied with any analysis that does not accurately document what is really happening on the ground when it comes to the extraction, transport, refining, and waste disposal of dirty, filthy tar sands oil,” said the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “My biggest concerns continue to be the serious health impacts on communities, and the dangerous carbon pollution that comes from tar sands oil.”

Environmental groups have mounted a full-court press on the White House to block the pipeline.

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