Pipeline bill bid shot down

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Keystone XL owner files eminent domain proceedings for Nebraska land.

North America’s most famous infrastructure project escaped mention in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night – at least, by name.TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, filed eminent domain proceedings against 90 Nebraska landowners Tuesday to gain access to the final acreage needed to build the controversial project. “Eminent domain is a last resort and our first priority is always to negotiate voluntary agreements with landowners,” TransCanada’s Keystone projects land manager Andrew Craig said in a written statement. “We have made numerous offers to negotiate generous agreements with landowners,” he said. “We have waited as long as we could under state law before beginning the process – as we said we would.” TransCanada’s eminent domain filings are the latest step in a years-long war over the pipeline, which can’t go forward without President Obama’s go-ahead.

The House passed legislation that would force approval over the executive decision-making process in the first week back in session, and the Senate is expected to pass its own bill in the next week. It illustrated the political headwinds now confronting the Canadian oil-infrastructure project: The president voiced his increasingly blunt disdain, and a vocal cheering section from his party roared in approval.

Obama took his latest shot from the biggest political stage of the year, the annual prime-time speech to Congress, with a final decision on the oilsands project expected from him within weeks. While he praised the fact that the United States is less dependent on foreign oil and is now “number one in oil and gas,” he only obliquely referred to Keystone in his discussion of the need for infrastructure investments. “Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. A decision from the State Department would come sometime after that. “In recent months, President Obama has cleared the way for rejecting Keystone XL by dismissing the best arguments that tar sands proponents have got — and tonight he’s continued the drumbeat,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

But it was the first time he publicly teased lawmakers for making it a priority, instead of a massive infrastructure bill he’d rather see. “Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.” At one point, the president rattled off a series of encouraging economic numbers with shrinking deficits, growing employment, and expanding stock markets. And when Republicans began a sarcastic cheer later in the speech, as he mentioned that he’d run his last election, the president interjected: “Because I won both of them.” Since the debacle of the November midterm elections for his party, Obama has responded with some of the most aggressive actions of his presidency: reopening relations with Cuba, a climate deal with China, and a controversial executive order deferring deportations for four million immigrants. And it found his personal approval at 46 per cent — his highest level in two years, comparable to Ronald Reagan’s at the same stage in his presidency, much higher than George W. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. Obama called on Congress to introduce a child-care plan like the one that existed during the Second World War, maternal leave like virtually every other developed country today, and changes to the tax code that move away from benefiting the wealthy in favour of the middle class.

A prominent hawk on immigration, Iowa member Steve King, huffed Tuesday to his Twitter followers that one of the president’s guests in the gallery would be “a deportable,” a university student whose family is allowed to stay in the country under Obama’s order. They noted the Islamist rebellions raging around the world — with Yemen in danger of political collapse just this week, and murders in places as distant as Nigeria and Ottawa. “The president’s own State Department has said Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy, and do it with minimal environmental impact,” said the Iowa rookie, who gained fame last year for a campaign video that referred to her past career as a pig-castrating farmer. “We worked with Democrats to pass this bill through the House. President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good American jobs?” Tuesday’s poll that showed increased economic confidence also asked a question about the pipeline: Two-thirds of respondents who expressed an opinion supported the project.

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