Senate GOP bill prods Obama to reverse Keystone XL delay

US Senate Republicans introduced legislation that would deem the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline federally approved 60 days after enactment if the Obama administration did not act. But several said they would rather see US President Barack Obama reverse his Nov. 11 decision to delay acting on TransCanada Inc.’s cross-border permit application for the project until after the 2012 elections.

“Our foreign oil vulnerability endangers our national security,” said Richard D. Lugar (Ind.), the bill’s main sponsor, at a Nov. 30 press conference. “Building the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline now is a dramatic opportunity to change that equation. It’s also a dramatic opportunity to create jobs. It’s the largest infrastructure project ready now in the United States.” He said that he would push for immediate consideration by the Foreign Relations Committee, where he is ranking minority member.

Mike Johanns (Neb.), one of the bill’s 37 cosponsors, said issues surrounding Keystone XL’s route across his state have been resolved, and the bill reflects this. “If the president were to act on this today, work could commence,” he maintained. “Even though we are working on this legislation and hope that it will pass, our message to the president today is if he really wants to create jobs and provide more energy independence for this country, approve the permits.”

“This delay is bad energy policy. It’s politics, plain and simple,” observed Lisa Murkowski (Alas.), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member and one of the bill’s 37 cosponsors. “For the nearly 20,000 people who held out hope they might be working on this project, they’re disappointed that they’re going to have to wait.”

Other cosponsors noted that forcing Canadian oil sands producers to sell crude recovered from Alberta deposits elsewhere would have greater adverse environmental impacts. John Hoeven (SD), another Energy and Natural Resources Committee member, said supertankers and terminals involved in transporting the crude from Canada’s west coast to East Asian customers would emit more carbon dioxide than the proposed 1,700 mile pipeline. “Right now, there also are 100,000 b/d of light sweet crude being produced in North Dakota and eastern Montana that could go into this pipeline,” he added.

The American Petroleum Institute immediately expressed its strong support for the bill. “It would enable the permitting process to proceed while efforts continue to resolve concerns related to one isolated area in Nebraska,” said API Executive Vice-Pres. Marty Durbin. “The process has dragged on for more than 3 years and the latest decision by the president will add at least another year of delay. This shovel-ready project should not be shelved for political purposes.”

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