The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 20, 2014

Our View: Senate should vote on Keystone

Why it matters: The Obama administration has been dragging its feet on developing an important energy source


The Mankato Free Press

---- — A Senate Energy Committee voted Wednesday to approve the Keystone XL pipeline presumably over the objections of the Obama administration. It’s about time Congress took some action on this issue.

The Obama administration has been dragging its feet on Keystone for years. At one point, the administration said it was waiting on final environmental review by the State Department and then by the state of Nebraska. All of that has long been approved. The State Department even reported that the project would have no impact on global climate because the oil would be shipped by rail and truck if not by pipeline.

The Obama administration has run out of credible reasons to delay. It now appears to be mostly a political decision as Democrats want to support in some way their environmentalist base.

But two Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted with 10 Republicans to approve the project. Energy Committee Chair Mary Landrieu, La., and Sen. Joe Manchin, W.V. voted with the Republicans to move forward with the project for important reasons. Landrieu cited the recent turmoil in Iraq and how a refinery that supplies the U.S. with 350 million barrels a year was reportedly taken over by Islamic militants.

Said Landrieu to The Hill news: “It is clear that our current situation exposes us to the political instability of these regions.”

Republicans on the committee correctly point out the Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is the main roadblock to Congress approving the pipeline. They argue he opposes it and the president opposes it and therefore he will not allow and up or down vote in the Senate. The House has already voted in favor of approving the project.

Reasonable people can argue the merits U.S. energy policy and the mix of reliance on renewable fuels versus oil, but there appears to be clear public support and bipartisan support for the Keystone pipeline. Numerous Democrats in both houses have sent letters to the Obama administration urging it to approve the pipeline. Obama delayed the decision until the election passed, but now really has no excuse to reject the project.

Reid and Democratic leadership should allow an up or down vote on Keystone in the full Senate. Energy Committee member Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, pointed out there is a role for Congress in these decisions when the administration continues to stall and delay in a manner that Murkowski says “subverts” the process. We agree.

And as Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said: “The reality is that if this project’s going to get approved, Congress is going to have to do it.” That’s the reality.

Democratic senators have a duty to call on Reid to allow a vote. They don’t even have to advocate for the project. We simply need a vote. In all likelihood, it will be approved. A completed Keystone project will reduce U.S. dependence on Middle East oil and will be another step toward energy independence.

In their words:

“I really wish we weren’t sitting here years after a decision should have been made by this administration. When the administration delays or subverts the process, there is a role for Congress.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska

“The reality is that if this project’s going to get approved, Congress is going to have to do it.”

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

“With all due respect, this vote seems more like a cheerleading exercise than a meaningful effort to get Keystone built.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.