by Chris Clayton, DTN Ag Policy Editor
Republicans in Congress want to quickly send a bill on Keystone XL to the president's desk as a rapid way to test their new legislative majority against the president's veto pen. That would set up a defining battle over energy and climate policies that divide Congress and the White House. The president seemed to make it pretty clear right before the holidays that he sees little national interest in creating the pipeline.
“There is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices, what the average American consumer cares about, by having this pipeline come through,” President Obama said Dec. 19. “And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let's get this oil and it's going to come here and the implication is that's going to lower oil prices here in the U.S. It's not. There's a global oil market. It's very good for Canadian oil companies and it's good for the Canadian oil industry, but it's not going to be a huge benefit to US consumers. It's not even going to be a nominal benefit to US consumers.”
The Nebraska Supreme Court continues to generate suspense over how the state court will rule on Keystone. The court must rule on the question of whether Gov. Dave Heineman improperly went around the state's Public Service Commission by signing legislation essentially giving the pipeline route state approval. If the court throws out the siting law, then TransCanada, the parent company for Keystone, must go through the Public Service Commission to get a route permit. Or, the court could back the governor and reject a lower court ruling, which would eliminate a stumbling block for the pipeline.
The Nebraska Supreme Court issues rulings every Friday. So far, supporters and opponents of the pipeline keep monitoring the court for indications of when the ruling will come down.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, takes over as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources next week. She has already set a Jan. 7 hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline though witnesses have not been announced. Murkowski also has introduced a bill in the Senate to approve the pipeline. The bill would not, however, supersede the Nebraska Supreme Court case or any state permit requirements for the pipeline.
The House is planning to hold a vote on Keystone sometime within the first two weeks after they return Jan. 6. That would effectively translate into a floor vote before Jan. 15.
Three Democrats wrote House Speaker John Boehner earlier this week asking him to “use regular order” for any bill regarding Keystone. Reps Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Raul Grijalva of Arizona wrote the letter. The three are ranking members of committees that could oversee some aspect of any pipeline legislation. The three Democrats questioned why Boehner is willing to consider a bill sometime in the next two weeks.
“Given the magnitude of this issue, we urge you not to bypass the committee process and regular order for consideration of this controversial legislation. This past November, 61 new Members of Congress were elected by the American people to represent their interests in the House. These new Members, and in fact all Members of the House, should have the opportunity to consider, debate, and propose their own ideas on this legislation through committee hearings and markups, before it is scheduled for House Floor consideration,” the congressmen wrote.
The congressmen also questioned whether legislation is premature while the Nebraska court continues to mull state siting legislation. The congressmen also noted the decline in oil prices and declining gas prices, which “illustrates changed circumstances.”
Along with those concerns, the three congressmen also want members of Congress to debate the effects Keystone could have on carbon pollution, as well as other environmental and safety risks.
As lawmakers move ahead, debate will center heavily on just exactly how many jobs will be created. A study by the State Department projects the pipeline would create nearly 1,950-3,900 construction jobs — depending on how long it takes to complete the project — and fewer than 50 permanent jobs. Indirectly, the State Department study cites that spending on the project, $3.3 billion in the U.S., would support approximately 42,100 direct, indirect and induced jobs.
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Posted by Jami Howell