A Republican-controlled House passed a bill Thursday that could approve the TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline project. The bill also could open portions of the nation’s coasts to offshore drilling.
House GOP wants control of pipeline
The legislation, approved 237-187, wrests control of the $7 billion Keystone project away from the Obama administration. If passed by the Senate and approved by the White House, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will have 30 days to approve the project, following a safety inspection.
Obama puts project on hold
If completed, the Keystone XL pipeline would deliver synthetic crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta to various U.S. locations. President Obama, after pressure from multiple environmental groups, put the project on hold in January. He told Calgary-based TransCanada to find an alternate route for its pipeline.
Environmentalists say the pipeline will carry crude that is corrosive. Also, they say that the production and refining process will create air pollution.
GOP says it is job-creator
House Republicans see it differently. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said:
“This legislation would create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs for American workers. It’s time to secure our own future with American-made energy.”
The administration said, however, that the amount of jobs created by the pipeline would be minimal. The State Department estimates that as few as 20 people are needed to operate and maintain the 1,661 miles of pipeline. TransCanada estimates it would be more like a few hundred, but nowhere near the hundreds of thousands Hastings claims.
Part of a broader plan
Congressional Republicans say the bill was introduced as part of three bills that are designed to raise $260 billion to fund transportation infrastructure. Part of that proposal is to allow oil companies to drill off the shores of California, Florida and Virginia. It would also permit energy production in the shale deposits of Colorado and in portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The remaining measures will be introduced after next week’s recess, House Republicans say. One of those measures will contain a provision that will take money from the pensions of government employees to fund transportation projects.
Environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, say the offshore drilling would harm the ecology of the nation’s coastlines, and energy production in Colorado could taint the state’s drinking water.
GOP efforts insufficient, says administration
The White House says those efforts, even if the land was accessible, would still not provide adequate funding for the country’s transportation infrastructure.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said:
“We all know these places are not going to be developed in the near term at all. They will not fund the transportation needs of the United States of America.”
Ed Markey, (Mass.-D) said the newly passed bill will only raise about $4.28 billion by 2022.
Will not pass Senate or White House
Although the legislation is not expected to pass the Senate — let alone a White House veto — House Republicans are trying to send a message.
“(This bill) is an action plan that clearly contrasts President Obama’s anti-energy policies with the pro-energy, pro-American jobs policies of Republicans.”
Senate republicans are also actively trying to grab control of the pipeline from the administration. A bill was introduced on Feb. 15 that would block President Obama from using the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve unless he approves the Keystone XL project.
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