Heitkamp leads Senate Democrats’ new push for Keystone XL approval

Ten other US Senate Democrats joined Heidi Heitkamp (ND) in urging US President Barack Obama to approve the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline by May 31.

“Please use your executive authority to expedite this process to a swift conclusion and a final decision so we can all move forward on other energy infrastructure needs in this country,” they said in an Apr. 10 letter to the president.

Sens. Mary L. Landrieu (La.), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Mark Begich (Alas.); Joe Donnelly (Ind.); Kay Hagan (NC); Joe Manchin (W.Va.); Claire McCaskill (Mo.); Mark Pryor (Ark.); Jon Tester (Mont.); John Walsh (Mont.); and Mark Warner (Va.) also signed the letter.

“This process has been exhaustive in its time, breadth, and scope,” said Heitkamp. “It has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify.”

She said, “We cannot miss another construction season. Given the long, cold winter this year along the Keystone XL pipeline route and the time required for ground thaw, we could be looking at a very short season [in 2014]. We need a definitive timeline laid out for a project that should be approved because it’s in our country’s best interest.”

The senators said they respected the need for a final public comment period on the proposed pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries (which ended on Mar. 7), as well as the importance of relevant federal agencies and officials conveying their views to US Sec. of State John F. Kerry.

Within 15 days

“At the expiration of the current 90-day comment and consultation period for certain federal agencies, there should be a date no later than 15 days after that [time] for Sec. Kerry to provide you with his national interest determination recommendation,” they told Obama. “Finally, we ask that you commit to making your final decision on the [cross-border] permit application by May 31.”

Responding to a reporter’s question about the Senate Democrats’ letter at the Apr. 10 daily briefing, White House Press Sec. Jay Carney said the administration’s position remains that the deliberation process at the US Department of State on Keystone XL should be allowed to run its appropriate course without interference from the White House or Congress.

“It was because of actions taken by Republicans in Congress that one delay was caused in the process already,” Carney said, adding, “So that review continues at [DOS] where it’s housed in accordance with past practices of previous administrations of both parties. And when there’s a decision to be announced, it will be announced.”

But American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said Heitkamp and the 10 other Senate Democrats’ letter shows that many of the calls for the proposed project’s approval are coming from within the president’s own political party.

“Delaying the decision on Keystone XL sends the wrong signal to the rest of the world,” Gerard said, adding, “A nation that continues to be indecisive on a simple a matter of our own energy security will have a hard time convincing the rest of the world we can be decisive when it comes to their interests. We need to send the signal we’re serious about our domestic energy policy and our global energy policy.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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