Keystone XL Pipeline Debate – Is it Just About the Money? – DTN

    The full U.S. Senate could begin floor debate early next week on legislation to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline after the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday passed a bill that will be up for amendment starting next week.

    Whether the debate starts early next week or not will depend on when Republicans can break a filibuster launched by Democrats Thursday afternoon. According to a report in the Washington Times, the filibuster was triggered when Democrats objected to plans by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to begin open floor debate on Monday.

    The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up similar legislation, possibly as early as Friday. The White House has already said the president would veto the legislation because the bill “conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on U.S. national interests,” the White House Office of Management and Budget stated.

    The bill moved to the full Senate is the same legislation introduced by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., in recent years and co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

    Though the Keystone pipeline is an important part of American efforts to build the necessary infrastructure to account for the recent U.S. energy boom, Hoeven said the Keystone bill isn’t the point of action being taken in the Senate. Oil prices have come down because of the American energy boom, he said.

    “To have this debate, it’s not just this issue,” Hoeven said. “It’s getting to regular order. I hope this can foster bipartisanship. It’s about returning to regular order and an open amendment process. These arguments have gotta be music to OPEC’s ears.”

    Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and the chairman of the committee, said it was important for Congress to listen to two-thirds of the American people who support building the pipeline despite the president’s veto threat.

    “The world is watching to see if the U.S. is ready to become an energy super power,” she said. “I think the Congress is ready. We continue to be blocked by this administration.”

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was among a choir of Democrats who questioned why the Senate was getting involved in what amounts to a foreign company’s business on American soil.

    “I question why the pipeline is first on the agenda in this Congress,” she said. “If it is about jobs, what if we focus on highways instead of pipelines? A highway bill will create 8 million jobs. This is about money. This would do a whole lot for TransCanada. Who does this new Republican Congress work for? I didn’t come here to do favors for TransCanada.”

    Committee ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Nebraskans living along the potential pipeline route in the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills want to have their say on whether the pipeline is built.

    “If we want to place blame for the slow process,” she said, “we should look at the TransCanada proposal. We have to realize what is the emergency for Congress to intervene? My message to the TransCanada Corp. is to play by the rules. We don’t know how to clean up tar sands in water.”

    There seems to be bipartisan agreement at least on the Senate committee that companies producing tar sands oil should be required to pay into the federal oil spill trust fund.

    “Americans are bearing the risk of transporting Canada’s dirty oil,” Cantwell said. “It is TransCanada’s goal to sell the oil to the highest bidder. This is a premature effort for us as a Congress. When you try to subvert environmental laws it takes longer.”

    Other Democratic members of the committee pointed to a variety of economic analyses showing the pipeline could have the effect of causing prices at the pump to increase, a claim rejected by Republican members of the committee.

    “Why does it make sense for the Congress to take action that could put at risk the better days consumers could see at the pump?” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, said the Senate has the opportunity to take action aimed at combating climate change by voting down the bill.

    “I have a feeling our kids and our grandchildren will be asking us, ‘What were you guys thinking?'” he said. “I fear the majority of this committee will vote to reject science.”

    Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said although the Republicans supporting the pipeline point to the need to build the pipeline to support jobs, generate economic activity and bolster energy security, the delay in the project may have another meaning.

    “Folks in Nebraska are concerned about safety and would like to have some input,” she said. “Maybe it has taken six years because it shouldn’t be built. This bill has a lot of risks and little reward for Americans. There is no requirement that we get that oil.”

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