Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Keystone XL Pipeline Bill Passes House 279-147

Jul 26: The U.S. House passed the controversial Keystone XL pipeline -- the North American-Made Energy Security Act (H.R.1938) by a vote of 279-147 [See WIMS 7/26/11]. The bill, authored by Representatives Lee Terry (R-NE) and Mike Ross (D-AR), is designed to expedite the permitting process the pipeline and would require that the final Presidential Permit be issued by November 1, 2011. The vote included 232 Republicans and 47 Democrats -- 3 Republicans and 144 Democrats voted against the measure.
    Representative Terry issued a release stating, the bill requires the President through the Secretary of Energy to set a schedule for the analysis and decision process regarding the construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline. It now moves to the Senate for consideration. Terry indicated, "This pipeline has been the subject of more than 1000 days of consideration and a coordinated review by more than a dozen federal agencies. All other cross-border pipelines which have received Presidential permits have taken between 18 and 24 months. In June, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Laborers' International Union of North America, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada wrote a letter urging the passage of the bill. The letter pointed out the project will directly create 20,000 high-wage jobs and generate $6.5 billion in income for workers."

    He said, "This bipartisan bill has a simple and straightforward objective – set a schedule, coordinate that schedule, and execute a decision process. The more we delay this decision, the more reliant we become on oil from countries in the Middle East. This bill means less reliance on foreign oil, more jobs, and an energy policy which doesn't rely on less-than-friendly foreign nations. We cannot afford any more delay."

    House Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "This pipeline, Keystone XL, if approved, would dramatically improve our energy security. According to the Department of Energy, the pipeline would "essentially eliminate" our Middle East oil imports. It would provide a massive influx of stable oil into the market – something desperately needed as threatened supplies in North Africa send prices into orbit. This country needs the president to make a decision on the Keystone XL's permit. The uncertainty has gone on too long, and if we don't act, these energy supplies will go some place else. This is why we have this legislation, H.R. 1938. This bipartisan bill doesn't tell the president how to decide, it just requires him to make a decision. I commend Representatives Terry and Ross for finding a commonsense, and yes, bipartisan solution. If we don't build this pipeline, Canada will find another buyer. The Chinese have expressed significant interest in Alberta's oil sands. Are we going to stand by and watch China receive imports from our ally while we are forced to rely on imports from unstable countries? I sure hope not."

    Cosponsor, Representative Mike Ross said, "The unrest in Libya and the indecisiveness of OPEC are proof that it is in our nation's financial and national security interests to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil as soon as possible. We will never fully revive our economy until we lower gas prices in the short term, and stabilize gas prices in the long term. This Canada-to-Gulf pipeline will carry about one million barrels of North American oil a day to refineries on the Gulf, creating jobs here at home and lowering the price of fuel for all Americans. I'm pleased the House passed this bill and I remain hopeful it will pass the U.S. Senate. The federal government has dragged its feet for way too long on this project and we are simply asking that it set a timetable and make a decision by November 1, 2011."

    On July 22, the State Department outlined a schedule that would lead to a decision by the end of the year. The State Department said, ". . .the Administration hasn't issued a formal statement of Administration position yet on that, so can't give you a formal Administration opinion. From our perspective here at the State Department, we think it's unnecessary, since we've already committed publicly to finishing his process by the end of the year, which is 60 days after November the 1st." [See WIMS 7/25/11]. An amendment to H.R.1938 to extend the deadline for permit decision to 120 days after final environmental impact statement or until January 1, 2012, failed on a voice vote.

    On July 22, U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE.) who has continually pressed the State Department to adequately review the project, said he was pleased with the Department's announcement of two public meetings in Nebraska. Sen. Johanns indicates on his website, "As your U.S. Senator, it is my duty to review federal actions that might impact resources critical to the State of Nebraska. I have repeatedly raised my concerns with federal regulators to urge the involvement of the correct agencies and experts in the permit review. We must ensure that regulatory actions related to this application safeguard the irreplaceable natural resource of the Ogallala Aquifer."

    Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said, "This bill circumvents environmental protections that keep our air, land, water and wildlife from being polluted. Rushing construction of this pipeline before a full environmental review can be completed is a shameless giveaway to the oil industry. This pipeline is an environmental disaster in the making. Critical habitat for endangered species will be destroyed and hundreds of miles of wild landscapes, rivers and streams from Canada to the Gulf Coast will be recklessly put at risk from a spill. Instead of pushing building of the Keystone XL pipeline, legislators need to move toward more sustainable, less polluting sources of energy."

    Jeremy Symons, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) senior vice president said, "The oil companies behind this bill are playing a high stakes game of hide the ball. They are desperate for Congress and the administration to rush the approval of this pipeline before its full costs comes to light. Keystone XL will turn the U.S. into the middlemen of world dirty fuels market. We inherit the risks and higher costs while Canadian oil giants reap the rewards. The real answer is homegrown U.S. clean energy that creates jobs and makes us energy independent." An NWF senior attorney said the bill is legally unworkable says , since it would attempt to bypass existing provisions of cornerstone environmental laws."

    Access a release from Rep. Terry (click here). Access a release from Rep. Ross (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.1938 including amendments and roll call votes (click here). Access the full text of the State Department 7/22 briefing including the questions and DOS responses (click here). Access the State Department Keystone Project website for complete information (click here). Access a release from Senator Johanns and link to extensive information on his website (click here). Access a release from CBD (clickhere). Access a release from NWF and link to a teleconference the legal aspects of the bill (click here). [Energy/OilSands]