Sen. Mike Johanns wants the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward; sooner, rather than later.
Johanns has co-sponsored legislation that would require the Secretary of State to issue a permit to TransCanada within 60 days so the company can begin building the Keystone XL pipeline.
“This legislation recognizes the agreement that was reached in Nebraska and it accommodates that,” Johanns told reporters. “But the important point is that with the president’s action, if he were to act today on the permit the jobs could start to be created, the work could commence.”
During the special session of the Nebraska legislature, TransCanada agreed to move the Keystone XL pipeline out of the Sand Hills. The legislature agreed to fund a supplemental environmental study to determine the best alternative route. Johanns says construction can begin in other states even as the company settles on a new route through Nebraska. TransCanada proposes building a $7 billion pipeline over 1,700 miles to carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast. The pipeline as proposed would go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The State Department has jurisdiction because it would enter the United States from Canada.
The Department of State earlier had indicated it would postpone a decision on whether to grant TransCanada a presidential permit to build the pipeline until early 2013. The previous deadline had been at the end of this year.
Some have criticized the State Department’s decision, questioning whether it purposely postponed a decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 elections so that President Obama wouldn’t lose the support of environmentalists in his re-election bid. The pipeline is strongly supported by unions, another key support group for the Democratic president.
Johanns alluded to that in a written statement issued by his office.
“Now that TransCanada has agreed to change the pipeline route in Nebraska, it makes sense to ensure the President’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is not delayed for political purposes.”
Under the legislation, the president would be required to decide on the permit outside the state of Nebraska within 60 days. If the president chooses not to act, the permit would be granted. The permit would approve an alternative route through Nebraska submitted by the governor and direct the Department of State to support Nebraska’s efforts to find an alternative route through the state.
The bill has 16 co-sponsors, all Republicans.
Tyson Havranek, KHAS Radio, contributed to this report.