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01/25/2012 01:11 PM     print story email story  

Tar Sands Saga Continues, Hearing Today News

Republicans are in the process of deciding how to force approval of Canada's tar sands pipeline after President Obama recently announced its rejection.

Although Obama clearly indicated that TransCanada could re-apply using a different route, Republicans refuse to wait the year or so it would take for the State Department to conduct an environmental review.

The GOP is evaluating which "must pass" bill it will attach the pipeline's approval to. It could again be attached to the payroll tax cut bill, which comes up again for approval in late February. Or it could be attached to the highway bill that funds U.S. infrastructure projects.

This time, however, they're trying to strip the President's authority to decide on the pipeline.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NB) will introduce legislation that gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the final decision-making power. The bill instructs FERC to issue a permit and limits its discretion to reject the project.

"If we want to wean ourselves from foreign oil, why would we allow a pipeline to be built for 1,700 miles to manufacture petroleum products to be shipped overseas?," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) hosted supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline at last night's State of the Union address.

Hearing Today

House Republicans are holding a hearing today on that legislation, which would effectively mandate approval of the pipeline,  President Obama's decision to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline, while offering a high-profile opportunity to attack the administration for supposedly killing the project.

Kerri-Ann Jones, the State Department official charged with reviewing TransCanada's $7 billion project, will give testimony at the House Energy and Commerce hearing.

She says Terry's bill, "imposes narrow time constraints and creates automatic mandates that prevent an informed

"The legislation raises serious questions about existing legal authorities, questions the continuing force of much of the federal and all of the state and local environmental and land use management authority over the pipeline, and overrides foreign policy and national security considerations implicated by a cross border permit, which are properly assessed by the State Department," she says.

Democrats requested a spokesperson from Koch Industries give testimony at the hearing, given its business interests in the pipeline, but that was rejected. Koch Industries handles 25% of the tar sands imported to the US.

Nebraska Now Favors Pipeline

Meanwhile, Nebraska, which formerly was against the pipeline, because it would travel over the Ogallala Aquifer, now favors it because its considering an alternative route.

Republican Governor Dave Heineman says he'll urge President Obama to approve it. He believes TransCanada could begin construction now along the northernmost and southernmost portions of the pipeline, while his state conducts its own environmental review.

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