Senator to Obama: 'Stop Stalling' on Keystone XL Pipeline

By Susan Jones | December 18, 2013 | 7:56 AM EST

Sen. John Barrasso speaks at a Capitol Hill press conference in 2011. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

( - "It is time for the president to keep his word, stop stalling, give us his answer on the Keystone XL pipeline and approve the Keystone XL pipeline for the jobs that it will create," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said on Tuesday.

When President Obama met with Republicans on Capitol Hill last March, Barrasso says he "specifically asked him about approving the Keystone XL pipeline."

"And the president said his decision would come in a matter of months and certainly by the end of year. Since that time, we've heard nothing from the president other than criticism and ridicule when he talked about the Keystone XL pipeline. But the end of the year is here now."

Barrasso noted that President Obama's own State Department has said that construction of the pipeline would create 42,000 jobs.

On Tuesday, the same day Barrasso spoke, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama "is focused every day" on growing the economy, expanding the middle class, and "bringing jobs back home to the United States so that we can have the kinds of industries and businesses that create good jobs, that sustain secure middle-class lives. That's his focus," Carney said.

So if the Keystone XL project creates jobs, what's taking so long for the Obama administration to make a decision? A reporter asked White House spokesman Josh Earnest about that last week. "I mean, this has been going on for years," the reporter said.

Earnest said the Keystone approval process was "slowed down" by concerns raised by the Republican governor of Nebraska about the proposed route of the pipeline.

"So I think that demonstrates the commitment of the administration to get this right. It demonstrates that there is -- that there are people in both parties who have a range of views on this topic. And, you know, what the State Department is doing is they're reaching a determination of national interests."

Because the pipeline crosses the border with Canada, the State Department must approve it before construction begins.

The reporter asked Earnest if this is a case of the Obama administration "running out the clock" -- delaying a decision so the pipeline will never be built.

"That's not how I'd characterize the ongoing policy process," Earnest responded.

As reported, President Barack Obama said this past June that the Keystone XL pipeline would not be built if it created more carbon pollution.

“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest, and our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” the president said. “The net effect of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."

In that same speech, Obama said, “Our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil, and by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline.”

The recent hiring of John Podesta as President Obama's energy and climate-change adviser has some Keystone supporters worried. Podesta is on the record as opposing the Keystone project, but he has said he will stay out of any decisions on whether to proceed with pipeline construction.

Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom the Keystone decision now rests, is also a true believer in climate change.

In his first major foreign policy address last February, Kerry called for the United States to work with other nations to "develop and deploy the clean technologies that will power a new world."

If  it's ever completed, the Keystone XL Pipeline would run 1,179 miles, carrying crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Neb. From there, the pipeline extends to midwestern and Gulf Coast markets.

Because the pipeline crosses an international border, it falls to the U.S. State Department to decide whether the project is in the national interest. It's then up to the president to say yes or no.

In August 2011, the State Department issued a supposedly "final" environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL, saying the pipeline extension would not have a significant impact on the environment.

But following an outcry from environmental activists, the State Department three months later decided to seek additional information on alternative routes through the  Nebraska Sand Hills.

Then in January 2012, President Obama denied Keystone's application for a permit, blaming Republicans for imposing a "rushed and arbitrary deadline" for him to make a decision.

TransCanada filed a new application for a permit in May 2012, starting the State Department's review process all over again.

Now, five years after Keystone first applied for a permit in 2008, there is still no final decision on the job-creating project.

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