WASHINGTON — Legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is rolling through the House, even as opponents launch a fresh campaign against the project.
The 1,700-mile pipeline would transport more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from western Canada to Texas refineries. It requires a presidential permit because it crosses an international border.
It has been under government review for more than four years and has become a political football.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., briefed reporters ahead of a subcommittee hearing today on his legislation that would take the pipeline's fate out of President Barack Obama's hands and simply deem it approved.
The Omaha congressman said he expects the full House Energy and Commerce Committee to consider amendments to the bill next week before quickly sending it to the floor.
Terry predicted that all GOP members of the panel would support the bill, along with some Democrats.
“We'll have a nice show of support for the Keystone pipeline coming out of committee,” Terry said.
Pipeline foes, meanwhile, are mounting a new public education campaign titled “All Risk, No Reward” that includes state and national advertising spots to highlight the pipeline's risks.
Among the groups participating in the campaign is environmental advocacy group Bold Nebraska, which has been fighting the pipeline for years.
One leader of the opposition, Nebraska rancher Randy Thompson, is featured in the advertising. He warns that it is risky to bring tar sands oil through the state.
“This toxic cocktail would present the highest risk to our land and water,” Thompson says. “The pipe would be made from Indian steel, and the crude would be shipped to a refinery owned by Saudi Arabia and sold on the world oil market. Are you willing to risk Nebraska's future for foreign profit? I'm not.”
The witness list for today's hearing includes TransCanada executive Alex Pourbaix. According to a copy of his prepared testimony, he will tout the project's benefits to the United States — from decreasing the country's reliance on oil from other countries to the tax revenues that would flow to local jurisdictions along the pipeline route. He also will defend the safety measures included with the pipeline.
On the other side of the debate, Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council will testify that the project would “undermine U.S. efforts to reduce its carbon emissions, threaten communities and sensitive water resources, and increase refinery emissions in the Gulf Coast in order to provide tar sands producers a means of exporting their product on the international market.”
One of the new anti-pipeline advertising spots notes the recent tar-sands oil pipeline spill in Arkansas as it shows a map of the United States swamped with oil.
Look during the hearing for opponents to seize on the Arkansas spill as an example of the risks posed by the Keystone XL.
But pipeline supporters say the Arkansas incident proves their point that the country needs to build new pipelines rather than relying on those constructed many decades ago.
Terry noted that the president cited the need for modern pipelines during this year's State of the Union address.
“Arkansas was anything but a modern pipeline,” Terry said. “That was built in the early 1940s. Now the Keystone pipeline is the new standard on pipelines. So this is the most modern pipeline.”
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