Exclusive: Keep pipeline out of tax cuts, senators tell Reid

WASHINGTON Tue Dec 6, 2011 1:58pm EST

A group of demonstrators rally against the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline outside a President Obama fundraiser at the W Hotel in San Francisco, October 25, 2011.  REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A group of demonstrators rally against the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline outside a President Obama fundraiser at the W Hotel in San Francisco, October 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Five U.S. senators urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reject Republican efforts to make approval of the Keystone XL pipeline part of a payroll tax cut bill expected to pass through Congress in the next two weeks.

Last week Republicans in the House of Representatives said they would include a measure in the payroll tax cut bill that would give the power to approve the $7 billion Canada-to-Texas pipeline to an energy regulator, taking the decision out of the hands of the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama.

"We strongly oppose the inclusion of provisions that require approval of this pipeline in an arbitrary timeframe in any legislative package moving forward in the Senate," wrote senators Bernie Sanders, an independent, along with Democrats Ron Wyden, Patrick Leahy, Sheldon Whitehouse and Frank Lautenberg, in a letter to Reid on Tuesday.

For the Keystone measure to advance, it must be agreed to by the Democratic-controlled Senate - a major hurdle, as signaled in the senators' letter.

The senators called the Republican plan would be a "rubber stamp" for the TransCanada Corp project, which would move 700,000 barrels a day of crude from the Canadian oilsands to Texas refineries.

Republicans support the project because it would create thousands of jobs at a time when the economy is struggling. But some Democrats are wary of the climate-changing emissions from the oil and the impact any accidental spills could have on the environment.

The House plan would "short-circuit the legally required environmental review process," said the senators to Reid, who will play a key role in brokering a final deal on the extension of the tax cuts.

"BACK-ROOM DEAL"

By law, approval of the cross-border pipeline rests with the State Department, which had been on track to approve the project by the end of the year.

But it was put aside last month after Nebraska raised fierce objections to the pipeline's route. The state and TransCanada agreed to a new route, and the State Department said it needs until 2013 to study the plan.

Environmental groups fighting the pipeline had sworn to make its approval an election issue.

The Republican plan sparked fresh concern among green groups, with more than 100,000 people signing a petition to Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

"They need to know all hell will break loose if they allow a back-room deal that cuts environmentalists off at the knees," said Becky Bond, political director of CREDO Action, the environmental group that organized the petition, in a statement.

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Comments (10)
mward1921 wrote:
As Republicans continue their assault on the environment. Patience is a virtue they lack with a commitment to deceive mislead and discourage clean energy. Republicans lack the ability to do the job needed thanks to a unrealistic loyalty to no tax increase form signed during a need for support. Put Norquist on notice that the Amercan people come first as your oath too the people is greater than a single idea..

Dec 06, 2011 12:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
sr27 wrote:
Since when did the senate started doing deal for businesses? Are they sitting there push profits for businesses or serve people? How did they become so shameless and blatant in their actions? How is it that no one else is reacting to this and say, “no wonder the white house count not do anything”. The republicans are plain black mailing saying “Approve this deal so we can make money or the every working person in the country is going to get it”

Dec 06, 2011 1:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
conserfolife wrote:
And the Dems say Republicans are hypocrites. All anyone wants is job creation and when an amazing opportunity comes around to do just that the left is against it. The worst part is they are against the pipeline because America is too dependent of fossil fuels and they’re bad for the environment. Please, give me a break. Everyone, everywhere is dependent on oil and gas and our dependence isn’t going anywhere.

Dec 06, 2011 3:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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