WASHINGTON — Rep. Lee Terry didn't waste any post-election time before resuming his push for President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Nebraska Republican sent a letter Thursday to Obama congratulating the president on his re-election, wishing him the best for the next four years — and urging him to avoid further delays on the controversial pipeline project.
“Being less dependent on regimes that do not have our best interest at heart, is in our country's best interest,” the Omaha-area congressman wrote. “Creating jobs, is in our country's best interest. And working together is in our country's best interest.”
TransCanada's pipeline would transport crude from the oil sands of western Canada, across Nebraska and ultimately to refineries in Texas. The project has been under review for years, stymied in part by concerns over potential risks to Nebraska's Sand Hills region and the Ogallala Aquifer.
A draft report released by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality found that a new proposed route avoids the Sand Hills region and addresses other concerns about sandy soils and drinking-water supplies. A public hearing on that report is set for 6 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Albion, Neb.
With a final state report to Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman expected by the end of the year, a decision by the Obama administration could come in the first quarter of 2013.
Many industry observers expect Obama to approve the project, but they're unsure how long the decision will take.
Terry fears the possibility of further delays from the State Department, which handles the federal side of the review process because the pipeline crosses an international border.
Terry told The World-Herald that House Republican leaders have asked him to prepare legislation in the event approval drags into February or beyond.
“We'll put the pressure on then,” he said. “Right now, we're just using flowers, chocolates, whatever it takes.”
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., joined a bipartisan group of 18 senators that wrote its own letter to Obama on Friday urging speedy approval of the pipeline and requesting a meeting to discuss the project.
Beyond the halls of Congress, people on both sides of the issue have launched into all-out advocacy.
Environmental groups have planned a march on the White House for Sunday, calling on the president to make good on his promises to tackle climate change. The group Bold Nebraska sent a video message to Obama with photos of Nebraskans holding anti-pipeline signs.
The oil industry is making its own push, with the support of some labor groups, saying that if Obama wants to deliver on campaign promises to create more jobs, the pipeline is the way to go. And opinion surveys show public support for the project.
Rating agency Moody's, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others have predicted Obama eventually will approve the pipeline, but Bold Nebraska's Jane Kleeb described those predictions as spin from the Washington crowd.
She pointed to Obama's comments about the importance of addressing climate change and his statement that the savings from his doubling of fuel-efficiency standards equal the oil that would be pumped through the pipeline over 45 years.
In particular, she mocked suggestions that Obama will abandon his environmental base now that the election is over.
“The whole concept that he will now approve it because he doesn't need his base or enviro groups is so twisted.
So he will side with big oil, an industry that tries to defeat him, his party and clean energy at every turn? That makes no sense ... unless you live in (the) D.C. bubble of cocktail parties and industry talking points.”
Contact the writer: 202-630-4823, firstname.lastname@example.org