September 23, 2014

Move to take Keystone XL issue from president seen as serious

Could Congress take approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline out of the hands of President Barack Obama?

Nebraska Senators Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer say the effort to bring Keystone XL to a vote in the Senate is serious. Whether it will happen is another matter.

The chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, is pushing the issue. She has been working the halls of Congress, attempting to assemble the 60 votes needed to overcome any effort to block a vote.

The issue is huge for Landrieu, a Democrat up for re-election this year in a state that depends heavily on the oil industry. Keystone has become an election year issue in other races involving key Democrats with majority of the Senate up for grabs this November.

Johanns, a Republican, says the pipeline has strong support in the Senate and not just among Republicans.

“I do believe that members on the Democrat side are feeling the pressure. They’re going home and people are saying why isn’t this getting done? It’s been studied for five, six years, why can’t we get this to a resolution?”

The effort in the Senate comes on the heels of yet another delay. The State Department has stated it cannot make a recommendation to the president until legal issues are resolved in Nebraska. A judge has ruled the state law used to approve the Keystone XL route through Nebraska is unconstitutional. The issue ultimately will be decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

TransCanada has applied for a presidential permit to cross the border to build the pipeline from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. It then would be connected to the southern portion of the pipeline which runs from Cushing, OK to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas.

Fischer, also a Republican, says this really isn’t a partisan issue.

“There’s a number of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who have supported the pipeline in the past and they want to be able to have a vote on it now as well,” Fischer says.

Fischer says the votes are there to pass a bill, but it’s difficult to predict whether Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, will let a vote take place.

“What do I give it for its chances? You know, I’ve learned one thing, don’t try to figure out what Harry Reid’s going to do in the United States Senate,” Fischer says with a chuckle.

Johanns agrees. He says Reid holds the key.

“Stay tuned on this one, but there has been discussion about a vote. We’ll see if he actually brings it to the floor.”