Baucus, Daines call for Obama to approve Keystone pipeline
Article, The Great Falls Tribune
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
WASHINGTON - Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and nine other Democratic and Republican senators called Wednesday for President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project now that Nebraska has approved an alternate route.
"No more excuses," Baucus said at a news conference. "It's time to put people to work." He was joined by senators from Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas, Alaska, West Virginia, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman notified the president on Tuesday he will let the controversial pipeline traverse his state, a crucial step toward reviving the project one year after it was delayed by the Obama administration.
The Republican governor wrote in a letter to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he has approved a revised route for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, which his office said would avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region but would cut through the High Plains Aquifer.
The project, which crosses the international border with Canada, must be approved by the State Department to move forward. Heineman's move puts the onus back on the Obama administration to decide the fate of the 1,700-mile pipeline that has pitted GOP lawmakers against environmentalists.
In a letter to Obama sent Wednesday, Baucus and 52 other senators said the project should be approved now that it will avoid the Sand Hills area, which the administration had cited as a concern in initially rejecting plans for the pipeline.
"We ask you not to move the goalposts as opponents of this project have pressed you to do. We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security," the senators wrote.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana did not sign the letter, but remains supportive of the project, his office said. He sent a similar letter in support of the pipeline project in November.
"I support the quick approval of a responsibly built pipeline and I believe its oil should stay in America," Tester said Wednesday.
Baucus also met Wednesday with Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts regarding Kerry's nomination to become secretary of state.
Baucus said after the meeting he made it clear to Kerry that Keystone is a top priority for Montana. He also invited Kerry to visit Montana and hear from Montanans on the pipeline's significance as an economic driver in the state.
"I'll make it very clear to him," Baucus said of his desire to see the project approved.
Republican Rep. Steve Daines of Montana also urged the president to act quickly to approve the pipeline, saying Nebraska's announcement is "welcome news" but not the final step.
"It's time for President Obama to act and approve this job-creating project without any further delay," Daines said.
The 36-inch pipeline would extend through 281 miles of the eastern Montana counties of Phillips, Valley, McCone, Dawson, Prairie and Fallon.
In December 2011, then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer said the pipeline would receive a permit from the state, bringing nearly $1 billion in construction to Montana and 1,200 jobs wth it.
Schweitzer said that in addition to a $100 million access on-ramp for Montana-produced oil that the company previously agreed to, TransCanada must post a $100 million bond to cover potential problems that might occur with the pipeline in the state. Federal law allows regulators to seize assets of the company to pay for problems, if necessary.
In January last year, Obama blocked quick approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, triggering outrage from Republicans and objections from the business community.
TransCanada, the pipeline's developer, has since broken the project into two parts. The company received federal approval last year to begin construction of the 485-mile, $2.3 billion southern leg of the project from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast.
The segment the senators want Obama to approve is the 1,179-mile, $5.3 billion northern leg from Alberta to Steele City, Neb.
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