Sugar Land Rep. Pete Olson and other Republican lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to reverse course on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and swiftly approve the controversial project that would carry oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast.
At issue is the State Department’s decision last week to delay a decision on whether Keystone XL is in the “national interest” until a fresh review of a new route for the 1,700-mile pipeline that would dodge ecologically sensitive areas in Nebraska. That review is not expected to be finished until early 2013.
At a news conference Tuesday, Olson and his GOP colleagues cast the move as a political ploy designed to insulate President Barack Obama from making a no-win decision on an issue that divides key Democratic voting blocs, including some labor unions and environmentalists.
The casualty, Olson said, are the potentially thousands of shovel-ready jobs tied to the project.
“Election-year politics should never trump the needs of working families,” Olson said. “President Obama should not punt this decision until after the elections.”
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., accused Obama of “putting politics . . . over paychecks.”
“Approval of what is a shovel ready project . . . should be a no-brainer for anyone interested in jobs and job creation,” Griffin said. “This is all about the presidential campaign and not leadership.”
Environmental advocates insist the current route through the Sand Hills of Nebraska runs the risk of damaging water supplies in the region if bituminous or synthetic crude ever leaked from the Keystone XL pipeline.
Although TransCanada Corp. has said its proposed pipeline could lead to the creation of 20,000 jobs, other estimates vary widely, with some forecasts ranging from 5,000 to 6,000.
TransCanada is working with Nebraska officials to reroute the proposed pipeline away from the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to millions.
But some House Republicans are looking for ways to make sure any final rerouting deal between Nebraska officials and TransCanada takes hold — and is swiftly studied by the State Department. Possible legislation could mandate new deadlines for the State Department to conduct statutorily required environmental analyses of the project, with the goal of a final decision before the end of 2012.