Subcommittee Begins Work on Northern Route Approval Act to Support American Jobs and North American Energy Independence

April 10, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Power Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today began its work reviewing H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) authored the bipartisan legislation which would eliminate the need for a Presidential Permit, address all other necessary federal permits, and limit litigation that could further delay construction of the $7 billion jobs and energy infrastructure project. The pipeline has been tied up in regulatory review for over four years, and while President Obama has yet to approve the project, even with the Presidential Permit, construction of the pipeline will likely be further delayed due to additional regulatory hurdles and legal challenges. Similar legislation was necessary in 1973 to achieve construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline after facing many of the same challenges.

"Unfortunately, this is far from the first hearing on the topic and far from the first bill designed to grant Keystone XL its long-overdue federal approval. But this project is too important to give up on, and we again offer legislation designed to green-light it," said Chairman Whitfield. "Throughout all of the delays two things have not changed – the nation still faces unacceptable levels of unemployment as well as high gasoline prices. Keystone XL would help address both.”

Today’s hearing featured witnesses who described the vast benefits the Keystone XL pipeline will bring to our economy and energy security and urged Congress to move forward with a solution to build the project.

David Mallino of the Laborers’ International Union of North America noted that construction of the pipeline would provide good-paying jobs for many out-of-work Americans, stating, “For many members of the Laborers, this project is not just a pipeline; it is in fact, a life line. The construction sector has been particularly hit hard by the economic recession. The unemployment rate in the construction industry reached over 27% in 2010, and joblessness in construction remains far higher than any industry or sector, with over 1 million construction workers currently unemployed in the United States. Too many hard-working Americans are out of work, and the Keystone XL Pipeline will change that dire situation for thousands of them.”

Alex Pourbaix, President of Energy and Oil Pipelines at TransCanada, expressed frustration with the regulatory delays blocking construction of Keystone XL and highlighted the need for swift approval of the project. Speaking to the energy security, economic, and many safety benefits of transporting oil through the Keystone XL pipeline, he said, “I would suggest that it is time to bring this process to a close and proceed expeditiously to a final approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The project will reduce the United States’ reliance on higher-priced foreign oil and replace it with stable, secure supplies from both Canada and the U.S. It will create high paying American jobs, inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, and pay millions in taxes for decades to come. This project is needed – the benefits are clear – and time is of the essence to move forward.”

During an exchange with Energy and Power Subcommittee Vice Chairman Steve Scalise (R-LA), Pourbaix explained that if Keystone’s permit is denied, Canada’s valuable oil supply will likely go to other markets, like China. He said, “It is absolutely clear that the oil sands are going to be developed and this oil is going to get to markets. The only question is what market is it going to get to.” Watch the exchange here.

Keith Stelter testified on behalf of Delta Industrial Valves, a company based in Southwest Michigan that makes products used in facilities that will benefit from the Keystone XL expansion. He said, “If the Keystone XL pipeline can be built, I would see my company probably doubling in size over the next ten years.” He also explained that Chinese businesses are becoming increasingly involved in oil sands development as it is perceived that America is “‘thumbing their nose’ at Canada,” adding, “Because of the perceived American attitude regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, several plans are currently moving forward for updated and new pipelines across Western Canada, so that the oil sands crude can be moved to Vancouver for transport via tanker ship to China.”

“My bill, H.R. 3, puts an end to the delays blocking construction of this important jobs and energy project,” said Terry. “The bill declares that no Presidential Permit shall be required and includes additional provisions to ensure the pipeline gets built. Modeled after the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, this bill will end the paralysis-by-analysis and green-light the project.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “The project has broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate and enjoys broad public support as well. It is time for Congress to come together and help make Keystone a reality by approving the Northern Route Approval Act. Just as the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline was a game changer in the 1970s, the Keystone XL project will be a game changer in our pursuit of North American energy independence.”

The subcommittee will continue its review of the Northern Route Approval Act with a markup of the legislation on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. More information will be available here when available.

###