The House has approved legislation that would require the Obama administration to accelerate its decision on whether to build a $7-billion, crude oil pipeline that would run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. But the White House opposes the bill, calling the measure "unnecessary," and some observers say the bill has little chance of passing the Senate.
The State Dept. must issue a special permit for the 1,700-mile TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, because it would cross international boundaries. The measure, which the House approved on July 26 by a 279-147 vote, would require the State Dept. to make a decision by Nov. 1 on whether or not to build the pipeline.
The State Dept. says that it is committed to reaching a conclusion by the end of December but adds that it needs to complete its environmental assessments before it can make a definitive decision.
Labor unions and the American Petroleum Institute applauded the House action, saying the bill would boost the nation’s energy security, diminish its dependence on foreign oil and produce jobs.
In a statement, API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin said, "The shovel-ready project will immediately generate 20,000 new U.S. jobs, and investing in Canadian oil will support 600,0000 American jobs by 2035."
Durbin added, "It’s puzzling, therefore, to see our government urging OPEC to produce more crude and tapping our emergency supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve while delaying this critical pipeline."
Labor unions including the Laborers International Union of North America and United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada support the project, and agree with Durbin that it would create thousands of jobs for U.S. workers.
But Anthony Swift, a policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says his organization has "serious environmental concerns” about the proposed pipeline. Tar-sands crude oil is environmentally “destructive,” he says.
Swift says he would like to see tougher pipeline safety regulations put in place first, to avoid an accident like the July 1 rupture of the Silvertip pipeline in the Yellowstone River.
The agency that would develop such regulations is the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. “When designing this pipeline, it’s critical that we know what risks need to be countered and how can they design to account for these” risks, Swift says.
He also says, “The bill doesn’t have a chance in the Senate.”