Democratic senators press Obama on deadline for Keystone decision

HOUSTON — Eleven Democratic senators sent a letter to the White House Thursday calling for President Barack Obama to set a May 31 deadline for his administration to make its long-awaited decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

The senators, hailing from Alaska to North Carolina, urged Obama to approve TransCanada’s border-crossing pipeline soon, noting that the proposal has been in debate for more than five years. Obama rejected a previous plan for the pipeline in 2012. TransCanada has revised the route and its permit application now is in a 90-day consultation period, during which federal agencies give input on the pipeline to the State Department.

When that period ends in early May , the senators said Obama should give Secretary of State John Kerry no more than 15 days to deliver his opinion on whether the pipeline is in the national interest, a required step in the permit application process.

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“This is a process that has now gone on well past five years, has involved two applications, five federal reviews, multiple open comment periods, and numerous opportunities for consultation and comment at either public forums or at staff-level meetings,” the group wrote. “This process have been exhaustive in its time, breadth, and scope. It has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify.”

The senators said that the pipeline will allow Gulf Coast refineries to use more crude from ally Canada and reduce dependence on oil imported from overseas.

Public opinion: Keystone comments rushing in to State Dept.

They added that a quick decision is needed to avoid missing the optimal construction season.

“Given the long, cold winter this year along the Keystone XL route and the time required for the ground to thaw, we could be looking at a very short season,” they wrote. “This decision must not drag on into the summer. The time to act is now, Mr. President.”

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Warner of Virginia, John Walsh of Montana, and Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Democratic Senators’ Keystone letter

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