Lisa Murkowski: What Keystone XL could mean for Alaska

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Did Obama attack Keystone activists in the State of the Union?.

WASHINGTON – Michigan’s U.S. senators introduced two amendments to pending legislation intended to authorize the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, though it was a long shot that either proposal would be passed in the Republican-dominated chamber. In an interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Heyman said no one should read anything to the contrary from President Barack Obama’s remarks in his state of the union address Monday night. The Senate is currently considering the legislation, which President Barack Obama’s administration has already signaled he could veto despite support in both chambers of Congress. The property owners, who fell one vote shy of winning their case against the siting of the pipeline at the state Supreme Court this month, asked the seven-member panel to reconsider.

The White House has said the president will veto legislation to fast-track approval for the project that is now being debated, but Heyman insists the project is still very much in play. “The process sits in the State Department. And that’s not counting the occasional zingers, including his reference to his two presidential election victories in response to a brief outburst of grade-school hooliganism from the Republicans in the House chamber. It’s moving ahead and recently we have notified — just this last week — each of the government’s agencies to come back with their commentary by Feb. 2,” he told host Evan Solomon. “So the process is moving ahead and I think what the president has made clear is that the process is sitting in the executive branch, and that’s why he’s going to veto this. Michigan’s senators — Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats — oppose the pipeline but have introduced amendments which, if passed, could address related issues in Michigan regarding pipeline safety and the dangers of petroleum coke, a byproduct of oil refining.

The rehearing request came the same day Calgary-based TransCanada said it was starting legal proceedings to appropriate the last 12 percent of Nebraska land it needs to build the 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometer) pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to a network junction in the southeast corner of the U.S. state. If Republicans have distorted the Keystone XL’s economic significance and played politics with the approval process, Democrats have decided to take a high-profile stand against one mere oil pipeline. On Tuesday he made a new pitch for an idea he’s been pushing almost since the start of his first term: for more investment in America’s infrastructure. A pile of pet coke along the riverfront in Detroit in the summer of 2013 caused widespread environmental concerns even though officials played down any dangers.

Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that can create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come,” he said during his televised prime-time speech to the nation. Even before the pipeline became a major cause for the GOP, environmentalists made what should have been an everyday infrastructure decision into an existential fight.

The government’s final environmental impact statement estimated short-term employment from construction of the $3.3-billion pipeline at 42,000 jobs, but that’s only for two years. In a statement, company official Andrew Craig said TransCanada will continue negotiating settlement agreements with landowners during the court proceedings. Heyman said the fight against terror requires tighter collaboration between Canada and the U.S. to secure the North American perimeter, including even more information-sharing than was put into practice following the Sept. 11 attacks. “When we think about perimeter security, we need to be able to share info with each other about threats that may threaten either of us,” he said, adding there must be a balance with protection of personal privacy rights. “I think the world’s much more complex than it used to be and the kind of sharing that we need is more complicated, and more detailed than ever before.

There are, indeed, much higher goals on which environmentalists should set their sights, goals that are far more important than winning a largely symbolic battle on “a single oil pipeline.” One is defending the president’s Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. Another is making the case for going beyond the EPA, establishing better, market-based climate policy that only Congress can pass, such as a carbon tax or a carbon cap.

However, where needed, eminent domain allows necessary commodities like food, oil, natural gas and power to have the safe transportation corridors needed to get to where they are used,” Craig said. “We have made numerous offers to negotiate generous agreements with all landowners.” But the legal wrangling is far from over. A pipeline break near Marshall in 2010 resulted in the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, and some state residents are worried about an aging pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. “Since Canadian oil companies don’t pay into the trust fund used to clean up oil spills, it’s even more important that we make sure the pipelines owned by Canadian companies, like the Keystone Pipeline and the pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac, are safe and that American taxpayers will not be forced to bail them out if a pipeline breaks,” Stabenow added. While four concurred that legislation empowering former Governor Dave Heineman to determine the route violated the constitution’s allocation of that authority to the state’s Public Service Commission, three refused to reach that question, concluding that property owners hadn’t established they were in harm’s way. Hard-line anti-Keystone XL activism doesn’t educate people about what really needs to happen, nor does it endear environmentalists to the broader public. David Domina, lead attorney for the landowners, called that rationale “mortally flawed,” arguing that when his case was filed in May 2012, no landowner knew the planned pipeline path.

U.S. public infrastructure spending as a share of the economy has plummeted since 2009, under pressure from budget-cutters in Congress; it’s now lower than it’s been since 1995. (See accompanying graphic.) The harvest can be measured in news items about potholed highways, overstretched ports and airports, and collapsing bridges — the latest an interstate bridge collapse on Monday that took the life of a construction worker. Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson’s office Wednesday told the high court that his office won’t file any response to the landowners’ rehearing request, leaving the decision in solely to the justices. “We recognize that a small minority of people will continue to oppose this project — including the legal team representing these landowners and the professional activists who influence them,” Cooper said.

My guess is that he has long resented being stuck between an environmentalist base demanding rejection and analysts who don’t see what the fuss is about, and that he wishes the activists would move on to something more productive. An earlier TransCanada pipeline through the state, also dubbed Keystone, has safely transported more than 710 million barrels of crude across the state since 2010, he said. The government’s highway trust fund, which pays for interstates and other transportation projects, is depleted because Americans are driving less and using more fuel-efficient vehicles, reducing federal gas tax revenues. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who now commands a majority, dismissed it as a plan for “tax-and-spend liberals.” That’s a knee-jerk partisan reaction that won’t do in today’s world.

Obama observed Tuesday that “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure—modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet.

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