POLITICS: PennAve

Reps. Ed Whitfield, Lee Terry see Keystone rejection from Obama

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White House,Congress,Barack Obama,House of Representatives,Canada,PennAve,Keystone XL,Energy and Environment,Zack Colman

A pair of House Republicans said Wednesday they think President Obama will reject the Keystone XL pipeline, adding that the project's uncertain fate is hurting relations with Canada.

“I’ve been a little bit pessimistic about the fact I don’t think the president is going to approve the Keystone pipeline,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

“I hope I’m wrong,” Whitfield continued at the event hosted by TransCanada Corp., the Consumers Energy Alliance and others at the Canadian embassy in Washington.

Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., another senior member on Energy and Commerce, added he doesn’t “have the confidence” that Obama will green light the pipeline that would deliver oil from the Canadian tar sands to Texas.

Keystone’s unclear future has “strained” ties between Canada’s government and the United States, Terry said, calling the lengthy process a “disrespect” to Canada.

Terry acknowledged the nations’ trading links and mutual border will prevent them from drifting apart, but said Canadian officials and members of parliament have express dissatisfaction.

“They are very frustrated with the United States on this,” Terry told reporters.

TransCanada’s proposed pipeline is currently under review at the State Department. The agency is reviewing comments on a draft environmental assessment before moving onto the final version, which will be used to determine whether building Keystone is in the national interest. It, however, hasn't set a timeline for finishing the review.

Obama said in a June speech on climate change that he would nix Keystone if it “significantly exacerbates” carbon emissions.

The project's supporters say a preliminary State Department report already indicated it wouldn't; opponents say that finding was flawed, contending the contractor that State hired for the study had previously done work for TransCanada. The agency's Office of Inspector General is looking into whether State Department officials did enough to weed out contractors with a potential conflict of interest.

The Canadian government has begun a lobbying effort and advertising campaign in major U.S. newspapers and Capitol Hill publications to promote the pipeline, underscoring the government’s commitment to the project.

Inside the U.S., the pipeline has strong backing from business, some labor groups and Republicans and centrist Democrats. They say it will provide a jobs boost and enhance U.S. energy security by bringing in crude from Canada, a trusted ally.

But left-leaning and environmental outfits want Obama to scrap the pipeline, arguing the fuel, which is denser and more carbon-rich than conventional crude, would boost greenhouse gas emissions. They, with Obama, have questioned the pipeline's purported jobs benefits.

Opponents have staged several protests regarding the pipeline, and have plans for more.

Whitfield and Terry said they expect such demonstrations to continue, a nod to the galvanizing effect the pipeline has had on the green community.

The comments follow on the “Power Shift” conference held last weekend in Pittsburgh. The event attracted thousands of young climate change activists and organizations that are pushing Obama to kill Keystone.

“It probably is the new normal because we’re seeing it on almost every energy project out there,” Terry said.

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