WASHINGTON — Rep. Lee Terry wants a sit-down with President Barack Obama to hash things out on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Omaha's Republican congressman said Wednesday that he's worried that recent comments from the Obama administration indicate the president is poised to kill the politically charged project.
In a letter Wednesday to Obama, Terry and other top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee took issue with the president's downplaying the pipeline's job-creation potential.
“We are concerned that your most recent statements have signaled an arbitrary and abrupt shift in how our nation approves cross-border energy projects,” they wrote. “Your recent comments have only added to the immense amount of uncertainty that currently surrounds the Keystone XL approval process, unnecessarily jeopardizing $7 billion in private investment.”
The pipeline would transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. It requires State Department review and a presidential permit because it would cross an international border.
In their letter, Terry and the other members said the president has politicized what was previously a straightforward, apolitical process for reviewing such cross-border projects.
They asked him a series of questions about the standards he will be using to make his decision on the pipeline and his view of the ongoing process.
They also suggested a face-to-face meeting to go over the answers at the president's convenience.
In the past, Obama's public comments on the pipeline have been generally vague or open to interpretation as favoring either camp in the battle over the pipeline.
Even his statement that he would approve the pipeline only if it did not significantly contribute to carbon pollution was hailed by proponents, because they said studies show the pipeline would meet that standard.
But there was no mistaking the thrust of his recent comments. Obama clearly came down on the side of pipeline opponents who have characterized as overblown claims that the pipeline would be a jobs machine.
“Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator,” Obama said in an interview with the New York Times. “There is no evidence that that's true. The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we're talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”
He took another shot Tuesday during a speech in Tennessee, where he was talking about jobs and the economy.
“They keep on talking about this — an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that's estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs — that's not a jobs plan,” Obama said.
In their letter, Terry and the others pointed out that the State Department's own reviews of the pipeline have predicted higher job numbers.
“Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, the proposed project would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1- to 2- year construction period (of which, approximately 3,900 would be directly employed in construction activities),” a State Department report said.
That report also noted that pipelines have their biggest economic impact during construction and that once in place, the Keystone XL would require minimal labor.
“Operation of the proposed project would generate 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, primarily for routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs,” the report said. “Based on this estimate, routine operation of the proposed pipeline would have negligible socioeconomic impacts.”