The PJ Tatler

First Order of Business in New GOP-Controlled Senate: Bipartisan Keystone Approval

The Keystone XL pipeline is back — as the top item on the agenda of the 114th Congress.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) will introduce a bill to approve the project when the new GOP majority comes into session on Tuesday.

Hoeven and Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) bill provided a bit of drama at the end of the 113th Congress, as Landrieu tried to push the Keystone approval through the upper chamber as she faced a re-election fight.

The bill fell short by one vote, 59-41. Democrats joining Landrieu were Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Warner (Va.) and outgoing Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and John Walsh (Mont.).

Landrieu lost her runoff election to Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

This year, Hoeven is introducing the bipartisan bill with Manchin.

The two senators will talk in detail about their game plane tomorrow. Both senators sit on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which will get right to work with a hearing on the Keystone bill Wednesday.

Testifying at the hearing will be Andrew Black, president and CEO of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, Greg Dotson, vice president of the Center for American Progress, and David Mallino, director of the legislative department at the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

A business meeting is scheduled at the committee the next day to consider the legislation.

Under Congress’s authority enumerated in the Commerce Clause, the Hoeven-Manchin bill authorizes TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The pipeline, which has been held up by years of administration delays, is expected to transport an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries, including 100,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.

“I’m gonna reserve judgment on a specific piece of legislation until we actually see what language is included in that specific piece of legislation,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today, adding that President Obama noted “that the pipeline would have I think what he described as a nominal impact on gas prices in this country, but he was concerned about the impact that it could have on carbon pollution and the contribution it could make to carbon pollution, the negative impact that that has on the public health of people all across the country and the impact that that has on our ability to build communities across the country, as we see weather disasters worsen, as we see in the form of wildfires or more severe hurricanes that only adds to costs.”

“There is a process that is conducted by the State Department to evaluate a project and determine whether or not it’s in the national interest of the United States. That’s how previous pipelines like this have been considered, and we believe this one should be considered in that same way, too,” Earnest continued.

“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse here, and that is why, in the past, we’ve taken a rather dim view of legislative attempts to circumvent this well-established process. So, all that said, I’m not prepared at this point to issue a veto threat related to that specific piece of legislation. But we will take a careful look at it with all of those things in mind.”