In the wake of President Obama’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline on Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing to review legislation that would restart the project, and give oversight responsibility to an agency the bill’s proponents say is less politically motivated than the White House.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be invited to testify at the hearing, scheduled for Jan. 25, to discuss her department’s environmental review procedures.
The hearing will focus on a bill introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), which would allow construction on the pipeline to begin a month after passage. The legislation would shift responsibility for approving the project from the White House to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Under the bill, FERC would have 30 days to approve the Keystone route examined in State’s “Final Environmental Impact Statement,” which found no significant environmental risk associated with the project. Construction would begin immediately after FERC approval. Nebraska, which has expressed concerns over the route of the pipeline, could then craft its own route, seek approval from its own environmental regulatory body, and submit it to FERC for approval, which would have 30 days to approve that route.
In an interview with Energy & Environment TV, Terry explained that he wants to take responsibility for the Keystone pipeline “out of the politics that have developed in the State Department and the White House.”
While FERC does have experience with pipelines, they generally transport natural gas. Heritage energy policy expert Nick Loris has offered a proposal that, while moving Keystone forward, would delegate responsibility for approving the project to Congress.
A simple, effective approach would be for Congress to authorize the pipeline application as submitted by TransCanada pursuant to its authority to regulate commerce with other nations. Since there is no federal entity that sites and authorizes Interstate petroleum pipeline construction, the state of Nebraska could site and approve an alternative route, following the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s construction codes.
Both Terry and other Energy and Commerce members blasted the administration’s Keystone decision in a news release announcing the hearing. “The White House, blinded by politics and public perception, has turned Keystone from a commonsense issue into a political issue,” Terry stated.
Heritage has also criticized the administration’s apparently political move. The decision on Keystone “rejects jobs, energy, and logic,” noted Loris.