GOP Plots Path Around President on Keystone Pipeline

Jan 20, 2012 12:29pm

As House Republicans launched an assault on President Obama this morning for nixing a popular energy pipeline from Canada to Texas, the party renewed its pledge to move ahead with the project even if the president won’t get on board.

Emerging from the GOP’s issues conference in Baltimore this morning, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan told reporters that he was “deeply disappointed” that the president denied the project, adding that Republicans are considering an array of alternatives that would put the Keystone XL Pipeline back on track.

“As much as the president might want this issue to go away and come back maybe after the election, we’re going to do everything we can to keep it on the front burner, and keep this in front of the American people and do what we can to get this mission accomplished,” Upton said.

“The Canadians are going to produce this oil no matter what. Why not refine it here, build a pipeline here, and let Americans use the product. We’re seeing jobs flee. We’re seeing refineries being shut down because of the lack of crude that’s coming into our ports. This is a win-win for just about everybody.”

Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs, the top administration official tasked with considering the project’s approval, is scheduled to testify next week before the committee and explain the Obama administration’s decision not to proceed with the project. Upton said he might also call on all of the governors from states along the route to testify to the economic impact of losing out on the project to another country such as China.

Rep. Lee Terry, a Republican from Nebraska, where the pipeline has caught some snags, said construction on the rest of the pipeline should proceed while the state works out final approval. “The people in our country are confused,” Terry said. “Approving this pipeline seems like a no-brainer. Creating jobs and adding to our security. The American people want us to put aside politics and do what’s right, but the president failed to do that.

“They’re just sitting there waiting for the approval to start working,” he added. “Let them start working.”

Terry has introduced a bill that would strip approval from the president and give it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, also known as FERC. “We’ll continue to push this,” he said. “It seems to me that it makes more sense that we let the experts on pipelines make decisions on whether this is a safe and sound pipeline as opposed to a political entity worried about November elections.”

One other alternative House Republicans are considering is attaching the pipeline to a long-term extension of the payroll-tax cut and unemployment insurance. Upton said the conferees appointed to negotiate a deal could meet as soon as next week.

“The leadership made it very clear at the press conference earlier this week that we’re going to be looking at every option to keep this issue at the forefront,” Upton said. “Certainly that is within the scope of the conference, what the two bodies did, and I got to believe that at least two of us will be pushing for [tying the pipeline to the payroll-tax cut] as we move forward.”

Another Republican from a state along the proposed route of the pipeline, Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, criticized the president for ignoring the country’s energy security. If Obama changes his mind, Burgess said, the ports and refineries in his state “are ready to handle this energy and get it to market.”

“An effective administration would have recognized that America needs jobs. An effective administration would have recognized America needs the energy. But, most importantly, an effective administration would have recognized that our security is jeopardized when we go and seek energy from countries that do not like us,” Burgess said. “Canada likes us. Let us get our energy from Canada. It makes sense. It’s the right thing to do.”

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said that in addition to the 20,000 immediate U.S. jobs the project would create, tens of thousands of indirect jobs would also be added to the economies of states along the pipeline’s 1,700-mile, six-state route. “In 1958, my family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana so my dad could sell life insurance to the men and women working in the petro-chemical plants. Now that is an indirect job,” Cassidy said.

“My family’s livelihood depended on my dad’s ability to sell to those men and women who are more prosperous because of jobs such as these. This is the same sort of indirect job will absolutely will have ripple effect throughout the economy.”

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