Democrats raise new concerns about Keystone XL bill


Top Democrats on Friday renewed their attacks on a Republican bill that would fast-track the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, raising concerns that two U.S. agencies would lose oversight over the pipeline if the legislation were to become law.

The bill from Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., would strip the State Department of its Keystone XL approval powers and require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the pipeline in 30 days. If FERC weren’t to act, the bill would deem Keystone XL to be approved.

Democrats have noted that FERC testified last week that it has no experience or authority siting oil pipelines, and they say that Terry’s bill would approve the pipeline before Nebraska could propose a new route around a drinking-water aquifer in the state. But they raised new alarms Friday, when officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers told a House panel that the Terry bill would end the agencies’ regulatory and oversight authority concerning waters and federal lands the pipeline would pass through.

“Without knowing all the facts, without having a thorough review … the Republicans want to mandate that this pipeline get this very special treatment,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told reporters ahead of a subcommittee hearing on the bill.

Terry’s bill is one of a few Republicans have floated in their quest to approve the tar-sands oil pipeline from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries ever since TransCanada was denied a permit on Jan. 18. GOP leaders have mulled wrapping Keystone XL legislation into other must-pass bills, such as a long-term extension of the payroll tax break, which expires at the end of February.

President Obama said his administration denied the permit because a congressionally imposed Feb. 21 decision deadline didn’t allow enough time for the State Department to study a new route that Nebraska has yet to propose. TransCanada has said it plans to reapply with a new Nebraska route.

Terry said he feels FERC has expertise on pipelines and his bill would remove what he alleged is the White House’s political influence in the decision to deny the permit. But FERC has said that it doesn’t have authority or experience on siting oil pipelines and that the 30-day approval deadline “does not allow sufficient time to build an adequate record to arrive at a defensible decision.”

Mike Pool, deputy director of the BLM, and Margaret Gaffney-Smith, chief of the Army Corps regulatory office, told the subcommittee that they agreed FERC lacks the needed expertise for handling a permit for the pipeline and that the 30-day approval timeline in Terry’s bill’s wouldn’t give them enough time to provide guidance to FERC.

Pool said the bill would transfer to FERC his bureau’s power to oversee construction, operation and maintenance of the pipeline that would run through federal lands. Gaffney-Smith said her agency would lose its ability to conduct reviews and issue permits needed under U.S. water laws.

Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., told reporters Republicans were considering changes to the bill that would seek to address concerns raised by BLM and the Army Corps. The full committee announced plans to vote on the bill next week and House Republicans may fold it into their legislation for reauthorizing surface-transportation programs.

In the December law extending the payroll tax cut two months, Republicans not only included the Feb. 21 deadline but also specified the studies the department had already done were sufficient.

“Everything that can be said about Keystone has been said,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, former committee chairman. “But sometimes it needs to be repeated. This is a extremely important project for our nation’s future.”

But Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones said at the previous hearing that the department finished its environmental study before Nebraskans raised concerns about the pipeline’s route.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., former committee chairman, warned Republicans against advancing Terry’s bill, saying that rushing the pipeline’s approval would “generate monstrous ill will and create a situation where there’s more delay rather than less,” perhaps with lawsuits.

Separately Friday, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey, D-Mass., Waxman and three other Democrats introduced a bill to require Keystone XL oil to remain in the U.S. if the pipeline is built. Keystone XL supporters contend the pipeline would deliver oil from a friendly neighbor while creating thousands of jobs.

Congressional and environmentalist opponents of Keystone XL respond that the pipeline would reroute already-imported Canadian oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, where refiners can export some of it without paying taxes and causing Midwestern gas prices to rise. Opponents also say the pipeline would create few permanent jobs.

Waxman also said the GOP had refused Democrats’ request to bring in two witnesses they contend would provide crucial information on Keystone XL, including one from TransCanada Corp., the pipeline’s proponent. He called on Republicans not to advance Terry’s bill until Congress can hear from them.

“We want to know more about this project from the people who are going to be involved directly in this project,” Waxman said.

He said Republicans refused to bring a witness from Koch Industries Inc., a company almost fully owned by the GOP donor Koch brothers. Waxman has alleged Koch Industries had a financial interest in Keystone XL’s approval. The company has called the allegations “demonstrably false.”

This story was last updated at 5:02 p.m.

Puneet Kollipara

50 Responses

  1. Ken Zimmerman says:

    Just a few corrections and we might have a chance for a real dialogue on the XL pipeline. First, the aquifer the Governor of Nebraska is worried about is the Ogallala or High Plains Aquifer, one of the largest in the world. It covers most of Nebraska, and a good share of the western parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is a very big deal. Second, the XL (Keystone) pipeline that currently carries oil from Canada to Cushing in Oklahoma is routed through the extreme western part of Nebraska, where it is likely to have minimum impact on this aquifer. Third no Koch Company is known to have any substantial investment in the proposed XL pipeline. But Koch companies would certainly benefit from the uptick in oil supplies from Canada, as would many other US pipelines and field service companies, not to mention the tax revenues for the states through which the pipeline would move oil. Fourth, the environmental concerns about tar sands oil are very real. It used to be called “dirty” oil for a good, solid reason — it’s very messy study to deal with. And there have been spills on the existing Canada to Cushing pipeline before but nothing big so far. But the new pipeline would increase tar sands oil into the US by 300% or more and with greater volumes, operating pressures on the pipeline, and the extra distance from Cushing to the Gulf coast (about 900 miles) the risks of accidents and spills go up. Finally, all of the above, plus the fact that this would be one of the longest oil pipelines in the world, adds both complexity and time to the review process — from environmental, to financial, to operational, to jurisdictional. Most of the commenters here seem to have no or little understanding of the situation on the ground, and are shooting from the hip of their political convictions. Politicians and rubber-neckers should stay out of such reviews. They create problems and solve none.

  2. James says:

    This headline for a couple of dozen protesters that hate jobs? WTF?

  3. ROADKILL says:

    The deal went like this….
    Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House.

    One is from Chicago , another is from Tennessee , and the third is from Montana . All three go with a White House official to examine the fence.

    The Montana contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil.
    “Well,” he says, “I figure the job will run about $900. That’s $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me.”

    The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, “I can do this job for $700. That’s $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me.”

    The Chicago contractor doesn’t measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, “$2,700.” The official, incredulous, says, “You didn’t even measure like the other guys. How did you come up with such a high figure?”

    The Chicago contractor whispers back, “$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence.”

    “Done!” replies the government official.

    And that, my friends, is how the Government Stimulus plan worked.

  4. Ham Guy says:

    Law makers listening to the “Greenie-wiennies”. They do not have a clue as to what the energy is or does. Get you head out of the “sands” or from up your behind and help this country with the energy issue.

  5. Old_Fighter says:

    Normally, I would agree with those who say “follow the money,” but, in this case, I think it’s a bit more convoluted. I think it’s all about political power and government regulatory control. If the Obamanistas lose direct control over this project at the end of the day, they will lose a ton of fees and, actually, taxes (a rose by any other name) that they would be able to implement without congressional approval or oversite. Therefore, they are playing a delaying game here. Make no mistake, FERC, the Corps of Engrs., the State Dept., and other players are all arms of the Obama administration and are playing the President’s game here without fear of damaging his political assets in an election year. So, if he wins in November, he can slam the project before it gets started and if he loses, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Forget the fact that there are already existing pipelines running through Nebraska and it’s hard to imagine that this little route is the only aquifer of concern in the whole state. Waxman’s blatherings are just an indication of the shallow, nonsensical claims the administration has sunk to in there attempts to block or delay this importatnt project.

  6. passepartout says:


    According to, the national debt has increased by 4.7 trillion since Obama took office. But some of that spending was due to ongoing war spending and Medicare spending increases carried over from GWB. And one must remember that initially Obama advocated not extending the Bush tax cuts. Finally, when in recession, someone had to replace the loss of consumer and business spending from the Great Recession to prevent the unemployment rate from reaching upwards of 15 percent, an estimate arrived by the Blinder/Zandi econometric model.

  7. jbd2 says:

    In Response to Diogenese

    Both Democrats and Republicans sometimes ascribe dastardly motives
    to the positions of the other side. This is unfair and toxic to
    the sort of dialog that might get us to a meeting of the minds.

    I happen to think they are wrong, but the Dems who oppose the pipeline
    want to press on to a much cleaner future. They think the government
    can speed up the process and do not mind making rich Republicans pay.

    It is an honest position that needs to be refuted by logic and facts.

  8. William says:

    In response to Jack,

    While debt has nothing to do with the pipeline, the national debt stood at roughly 9.5 trillion at the end of George W. Bushes term. It is now 15 million. One does not have to be very good at math to realize that 80% of the debt cannot be accounted for by Reagan and Bush’s.
    Unless of course you are blaming all of Obama’s debt on Bush; In which case you must allow for Regan’s debt to be Carters fault and Bush 2 to be Clinton’s fault?
    Bush didn’t leave us in good shape, but Obama hasn’t done anything to improve the situation.

  9. Carroll Benoit says:

    What everyone must be Watching the Game or Counting there Money they got from The 2 Trillion of the 401-K that was stolen on the stock Mkt.

    Dems R Dumb~Libourne~james~Philip Rich~bob~mxyzptlyk~Reidthis~rrr
    All the Names here Can now Kiss my Arse.

    When Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., Deliver me A Check From B.P.FOR THE high PRICE
    I have to pay for Gulf Sea food & A Insurer Policy from Keystone XL I’ll approve the pipeline in 30 days. Ha.

  10. Carroll Benoit says:

    When Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., Deliver me A Check From B.P.FOR THE high PRICE
    I have to pay for Gulf Sea food & A Insurer Policy from Keystone XL I’ll approve the pipeline in 30 days. Ha.

  11. passepartout says:

    Matter cannot be created nor destroyed just changed. Digging up the tar sands to fill up our gas tanks and convert into emissions will only hasten to further unbalance our fragile ecosystem. But don’t let the chance to make money unhinge our thinking.
    There is substantive proof that human consumption has damaged our ecological system and will limit growth going forward.
    Time to focus on “clean” energies, solar, wind, geothermal, and especially nuclear.

  12. Leveut says:

    “Democrats have noted that FERC testified last week that it has no experience or authority siting oil pipelines”


    Perhaps they can explain what expertise the STATE DEPARTMENT has with respect to anything involving pipelines.

    And I, for one, would like to know why the STATE DEPARTMENT has anything to do with the siting, design, operation, maintenance, construction or anything else having to do with an oil pipeline.

    FERC? Sure. DOE? Sure. EPA? Sure. Army Corps of Engineers? Sure. State agencies? Sure.

    But the STATE DEPARTMENT? What the ….?

  13. truth says:

    Barrack Hussein Obama (BO) and the rest of the liberal democrats are hell-bent on weakening our great country. Their whole agenda is power and making as many people as possible dependent on government.

    BO and the liberals are wrong on every single issue facing our nation whether it be economic or social issues.

  14. CAD1936 says:

    Jack is right on. It is just that so many in working for the monolithic corporations are instilled with the “big brother” philosophy fed them by their corporate family that they must put blinders on and see only the economic good that is done by these corporations who posses no heart, soul or compassion for anything other than their own existence and well being.

    They have engineered limited thinking in so many of their employees and others with their political brain washing. It’s a wonder this nation has survived as long as it has but then we have never before allowed big business to control politics as they are doing now. With this last supreme court opinion on campaign funding, bribing is now COMPLETELY legal.

  15. yawn says:

    gulf shrimp …

  16. Nuffsaid500 says:

    Lamar Smith is in a hurry!

    He is ‘holding a gun’ to employment tax cuts and NATO Energy Security, for his real constituency.

    Strong national defense and NATO security (including NATO Energy Security) are core Republican values, not Democrat priorities. ‘NATO Energy Security’ is the subject of a recent treaty and is a (key) provision in the much hated Obama National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. The US State Department is required to issue a NATO Energy Security Assessment in March 2112, if memory serves.

    China is much more a Republican adversary than a Democrat shibboleth. China has acquired a large ownership position in the Alberta tar-sands projects. China is apparently the intended international recipient of much, if not all of the Keystone XL pipeline project ‘oil’. Shipping Alberta-Black ‘oil’ and USA LNG to China does NOT improve NATO Energy Security; quite the contrary.

    Congressman Lamar Smith desperately NEEDS to jam the Keystone XL Pipeline project through before the NATO Energy Security Report is published. Then it will be too late. Directly and intentionally or not, Lamar Smith is serving the interests of China, not America and NATO.

    Run Lamar Run!

  17. yonny says:

    This one project will be the saving grace for the whole country? Get over it. The pipeline is part of a two pronged approach for Canadian oil. They need extra capacity to get to the Gulf for refining and export to Europe and Latin America and the West to access Calif. refineries for export to Asia and China. The western leg is already planned and they are facing opposition in Canada over it. The same arguments that are being heard here apply within the Western Provinces. They need US refineries to handle the crude they are not equipped to refine and cannot, by Canadian law, move East to refineries there that can handle it. Once again, no energy security, no energy independence and no economic impact outside of existing industry interests. We have a surplus now that the industry is hand wringing over why would they want to store more?

  18. Diogenes says:

    Democrats whine and moan, as usual, and tell everyone else how to live. Liberalism is a mental illness.

  19. oilpatch41 says:

    All the Tar Sands production is in Canada, the US has NO voice in that operation, the Canadian government approves all permits associated with the recovery of the oil in the Tar Sands. The proposed pipeline is to get the oil to refineries to create the refined products used by the consumer. The Alaska pipeline was approved before the final route was established, this is not uncommon for major pipelines. Why one party for pure political purpose opposes a project that uses proven technology and will benefit the US economy in many area is a sign that they do not have the interest of the US in their plans. For Jack the US debt in 1980 was 1T, 1990 3.2T, 2000 5.6T, 2009 11.9T and today is over 15T. We were a powerful nation in the period from 1980 to 2009, now our leader goes around bowing to foreign leaders and appologies for our economy.

  20. Nuffsaid500 says:

    Threatening Republicans

    Permanent reduction in employment Taxes is a top Republican agenda. The reasons are simple.

    1. Lower employment taxes will reduce USA job losses and perhaps increase jobs.

    2. Lower employment tax revenues will reduce unemployment benefits for laid off workers.

    Lower taxes on employers and reduced safety net provisions for citizens are CORE Republican strategies. Democrats oppose BOTH of those goals, but focus on the latter. The Alberta tar sand project is so bereft of benefits; that corrupt Republican congressmen are threatening to hold the Core Republican Agenda hostage.

    Joe Barton is threatening Republicans with higher employment taxes, not Democrats. That is how important the Keystone XL project is, to Joe Barton’s real constituency, or shall we less delicately say, his owners.

    This is like a perp holding a gun to his own head.

    Not much of a threat!

  21. Jim says:

    Why does the pipeline need to be re-routed around the aquifer? Millions of tons of harmful agricultural chemicals have been dumped on the ground for decades above the aquifer and yet people still drink the water. It is purely a scare tactic used by the left and nobody seems to challenge it. It just becomes accepted without challenge that the pipeline can’t cross above the aquifer. Baloney!

  22. Joeool2 says:

    This has nothing to do with jobs for the `republicans this is just another lame attempt to embarres the president politically. It would have been approved over time and the republicans know this. This is pure politics.

  23. Mike in Houston says:

    This illustrates what all is wrong with the GOP today. They only have one mission, to oppose Obama on anything and everything, even if their opposition makes no sense. What they are trying to do here MAKES NO SENSE. You have an approval process, don’t do something STUPID to bypsss it just because you are too STUPID to understand what is really going on.

  24. scott41 says:

    We have to face it “top democrats” are against any energy program in the US except buying more and more of our gas from our enemies. Keystone has been studied more then any other pipeline before it, a full three years of review. The aquifer that the Dems are crying about now has litterally thousands of miles of pipeline running over it already.
    Just admit Dems you will find a problem with any energy initiative that isn’t a green giveaway to a Obama donor.

  25. rrr says:

    democrats are idiots. build the keystone ASAP. oops that, criminal obama is using it for political benefit. He will never do anything that is right or good for america.

  26. Dems R Dumb says:

    Just the Dimwitocrats further displaying their ignorance.

  27. Libourne says:

    The problem with most of these comments is that the commenters get their information from sources with a political axe to grind and no interest in accuracy or truth.

  28. james says:

    JACK, i find it disturbing in your three paragraph whining that you failed to mention that this president in THREE YEARS has added 7 Trillion to the national debt.
    Why did you not say that Jack. are you blinded by obama and think he can do no wrong?

    Remember the billboard that said this :: you voted in 2008 to prove your not racist, now vote in 2012 to prove your not stupid

  29. Philip Rich says:

    Move all the liberals to the East and West coasts where they can happily pay extreme prices for fuel. Move all conservatives to the midwest (from canada to the Gulf) where we can route all the pipelines and drill.

  30. jack says:

    Reagan tripled our National Debt, turning America from the world’s biggest creditor nation (remember when everybody owed US money?) to the world’s biggest debtor nation. That’s a fact.

    Then the Bush family came along and more than doubled it again. EIGHTY PERCENT of our current $15 trillion National Debt was caused by just three Republican Presidents. Along with mortgaging America to Red China and rewarding corporations for shipping all of our jobs overseas and destroying the once-powerful middle class in only 30 years. The corporate-sponsored Tea Party is only doing the dirty work to redistribute the small amount of American wealth that’s left from what remains of the dwindling middle-class…and funnel all of it into the pockets of the filthy rich top 2% who now own over half of America.

    “Reaganomics” has succeeded wildly these past thirty years…and brought a once-great nation to its knees. Too bad we don’t have any Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt…who saw this same thing happening 100 years ago and stopped it before it destroyed America…which earned him his nickname “The Trust Buster”. Today’s Republicans are sheepish cowards and America is doomed. Clearly, anybody that’s not a billionaire who votes Republican is a traitor to the United States.

  31. bob says:



  32. Paul says:

    3 years is fast tracking?

    Can we get some complete and honest reporting please?

  33. mxyzptlyk says:

    As gas prices continue their upward trend, the Dems oppose everything that could bring them down, from drilling to this pipeline. Which party has declared war on the middle class?

  34. kegger says:

    I think the wisdom of Henry Waxman is unsurpassable. Of course when we choose suppliers of energy, we should choose suitable and like-minded allies of Obama like Iran and Venezuela, over nefarious regimes like that evil democratic threat to our North, the post-colonial Canada. Canada can then sell its oil to the happy happy host of the 2008 summer olympics. It was so simple.

  35. Ag4Life says:

    Obama and his cronies and sycophants have the nation slowly circling the drain. They call themselves “Progressives”. You better be asking yourself, “Progressing to what?”.

  36. Sarah says:

    Dumbest bunch of comments I’ve read in awhile. And that’s saying something considering the comments on any crime article.

  37. Occupy This says:

    The hat the protestor is wearing is appropriate.

  38. steve says:

    dont worry about that ol canadian oil guys an gals! in anticipation of nomobamas green team rejecting any and all industry, and energy. china has already bought out a couple of canadian oil companies. before nobama rejected this issue, china an canada were already in talks. they knew, you should have, we did.
    when you pay 8$ a gallon of gas, to get to what few jobs there are, you have problems. reflection on fuel rates show in stores, high transportation costs are passed on to you, inflated by green hot air?
    now, we are faced with, can i afford to drive to the polls? im saving pennies, see ya at the polls! need a ride? thanx all, get right!

  39. clr55 says:

    Why I for one would rather see the Chinese refine these tar sands since they are so much more environmentally responsible than we are.

  40. txloanguy says:

    Number One Complaint from the Dems. It creates too many jobs.

  41. johnny says:

    I guess the Republicans and the Koch boys won’t make won’t make money off this bad ideal.

  42. harr1234 says:

    What are we dealing with here in Congress Gangsters who will not listen to the people. We have repeatedly voiced our no to the Keystone Pipeline. What do these Gangster Republicans want riots in the streets and sabotage and lawsuits to convince them the American People do not want this pipeline.
    Keep on pushing the issue and you will get the wrath of the American People.

  43. Jackalope says:

    Things must be really swell when our government can oppose this because it wouldn’t create enough jobs.

  44. J D says:

    When will these people understand the world’s economy is driven by oil.
    They don’t have to like it, they just have to understand it. This pipeline would help add jobs (though these protesters probably enjoy their unemployment and welfare benefits over having to work).

  45. James says:

    Libiiotts…are so freaking stupid….just saying

  46. dr says:

    This country is in a strong need of a revolution. We escaped one king with the revolutionary war. It’s time we escaped from this new king that we have somehow been stuck with

  47. Adler says:

    Democrats have yet to meet a jobs bill they like. Take that all you union members, you pipefitters, steelworkers, teamsters, construction workers, refinery and pipeline workers, and any other trade unio0n that would be involeved in construction, operation and maintenance of the pipeline.

    Just keep electing idiot, liberal democrats, and let’s see how many jobs you keep let alone new jobs you get.

  48. Diogenes says:

    Further evidence that Democrats want to kill jobs and keep Americans on welfare and foodstamps. I gues they think that would make us easier to control. Hard work and self reliance are frowned upon by Democrats. They’d rather hem and haw and prattle on about environmental studies and nonsense than put Americans to work and take any step towards REAL energy independence. Silly Democrats. What sort of fool votes for them?

  49. Reidthis says:

    If we could get Waxman, Markey, Waters and Reid out of Congress (they can take Pelousi with them), the USA may again become a prominent World Power. I strongly believe these people have no clue and are against the USA’s economic growth and success. I can only pray that the people in the States that elected these morons wake up and vote them out.

  50. Tom Albright says:

    Rerouting the pipe line is an easy issue. The devil is in the details of all of the to do over this pipe line. Simple logic shows that following the money is usually the best bet. If the pipe line permit is denied, then how could the tar-sands be transported South? By rail of course, and BNSF is the major player in that part of the USA. Who is behind BNSF? Why none other than Warren Buffet.