Barrasso questions purpose of Senate Energy panel’s Keystone vote

As he announced his support for it, US Sen. John A. Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s vote on Chairwoman Mary L. Landrieu’s (D-La.) bill to bypass the White House and approve the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline “seems more like a cheerleading exercise than a meaningful effort to get Keystone built.”

Barrasso said he thinks it’s unlikely Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) would bring Landrieu’s bill to the floor despite the committee’s approving it by 12 to 10 votes, and Landrieu and Ranking Minority Member Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alas.) statements they would press him to do so.

“The undeniable fact is there is already a bill on the Senate Calendar which would approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” Barrasso said, noting that a similar measure by another member of the committee, John Hoeven (R-ND), has 55 Republican and Democratic cosponsors, and has been pending on the calendar since May 1.

Landrieu and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted with the committee’s 10 Republicans for Landrieu’s measure. The other 10 Democrats voted against it.

The vote came a day after the Canadian government approved plans for Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway crude oil pipeline from Alberta’s heavy oil fields to a proposed British Columbia export terminal if the project’s sponsor satisfies 209 conditions a joint review panel imposed in December (OGJ Online, June 18, 2013).

TransCanada Corp. proposed building the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Hardesty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., with a capacity of 830,000 b/d to serve US Midcontinent and Gulf Coast refineries. It continues to await a presidential cross-border permit after more than 5 years.

American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard praised the Energy Committee for passing Landrieu’s bill and urged Reid to let it come before the full Senate for a vote. He said US President Barack Obama’s foot-dragging has only strengthened the resolve of the project’s supporters.

Environmental organizations minimized the committee vote’s significance. “While many members of Congress seem beholden to the oil companies that bankroll their campaigns, climate activists understand that time is running out to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption,” said Ben Schreiber, Friends of the Earth’s climate and energy program director.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is a line in the sand on climate that we cannot afford to cross,” he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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