Congressman Lee Terry expresses optimism after President Barack Obama outlined his criteria for approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
That confidence, though, is tempered by the ambiguity inherent in the criteria.
President Obama says he will not approve Keystone if it will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.
“Frankly, I’m glad to hear that, because the environmental study that was done, sitting at the State Department right now, says that there will be no significant impact of carbon on our environment,” Terry tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, the study is already done. It is already sitting over there and I expect him to sign it.”
Yet, Terry acknowledges the president has given himself an out and should he order another study that concludes Keystone XL would significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions he could deny TransCanada a permit to build Keystone XL.
Terry says the president’s statement indicates he leans toward approving Keystone, except for the ‘if’.
“Well, that’s the question. I don’t know what ‘if’ means. If it is by the words that he says, no significant impact, then he will sign it,” Terry says.
TransCanada must receive a presidential permit to cross the Canadian border. TransCanada proposes building a $7 billion pipeline 1,700 miles from western Canada to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas. The southern portion of the pipeline, from Oklahoma to Texas, is under construction.
The pipeline poses a prickly political problem for the president. Two allies of President Obama stand on opposite sides of Keystone. Environmental groups adamantly oppose it, arguing the crude oil extracted from tar sands in Canada are especially harmful to the environment. Labor groups just as adamantly support it, arguing the pipeline will create jobs and lessen America’s reliance on Middle Eastern oil.
A dispute on the route through Nebraska held up the approval process until the legislature resolved the issue. The state reached an agreement with TransCanada to re-route the pipeline away from the environmentally fragile Sand Hills. Gov. Dave Heineman approved the new route.
Terry says environmental studies have indicated Keystone won’t increase greenhouse gas emissions, but he worries that with John Kerry now running the State Department, new studies could be ordered.
“I think the difference of Kerry in the Secretary of State’s position is significant. He’s very much opposed to the Keystone pipeline and I could see him doing everything he can to provide information to the president that would force the president to deny it,” Terry says. “So, yeah, I think it is significant that he’s in the Secretary’s position right now.”
Under the presidential permit process, the State Department makes a recommendation to the president. The State Department has held a number of public meetings in Nebraska about Keystone XL as part of the approval process.
Though Terry is optimistic about Keystone, he acknowledges the president gave himself an excuse to deny TransCanada a permit.
“Unfortunately, even though he used the magic words of ‘not significant impact’ and those are the exact words that are already in the environmental study, he did not give me increased confidence.”
Click here for a link that outlines President Obama’s climate change initiative.
AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews Congressman Lee Terry on President Obama’s climate change speech. [4 min.]