OPINION: Rep. Marsha Blackburn in Investor's Business Daily: Keystone Pipeline is An Economic Slam Dunk for America

May 21, 2013


Keystone Pipeline is An Economic Slam Dunk for America
It's Time to Build the Keystone XL Pipeline
By Rep. Marsha Blackburn

The Keystone XL pipeline is a line in the sand issue, dividing those who want to utilize our energy resources to create jobs and propel America toward economic growth and energy self-sufficiency and those whose sole goal is to stop the development of fossil fuels.

There doesn't seem to be any middle ground, which is why it is so perplexing that President Obama has yet to make a decision on the project after weighing the issue for over four years.

The pipeline, if fully constructed, would be able to carry nearly a million barrels of oil per day, bringing supplies from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, as well as U.S. crude from the Bakken oil fields being developed in North Dakota and Montana.

A report from the Department of Energy estimates that the increased energy supplies and gains in energy efficiency could essentially eliminate U.S. dependence on Middle East oil.

This pipeline could tip the global oil market's balance of power in North America's favor, taking back this power from politically unstable regions of the world.

This is welcome, real progress for America. But progress for the environmental extremists is to hold back this opportunity and the power of our energy abundance through review, regulation and red tape.

Just as Keystone has become a rallying cry for environmentalists, it has also become a rallying cry for American workers.

Construction of the pipeline would support the creation of tens of thousands of jobs across several different sectors of the economy.

Even the administration cannot deny the job-creating power of the pipeline. In its most recent Draft Supplement Environmental Impact Statement, the State Department found that the project would support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs over the construction period.

Many labor unions, outraged over the administration's decision to put politics over jobs, have rallied together to express their support for the project and a desire to move forward.

As one labor witness expressed at a recent committee hearing, "For many members of the Laborers, this project is not just a pipeline; it is in fact a lifeline."

Contrary to the claims of some Keystone critics, the science is complete and overwhelmingly in favor of building the pipeline.

The State Department started its NEPA review of the original Keystone XL permit application over four years ago and has since publicly released over 15,500 pages of documents related to its analysis.

And time and again, the science has shown Keystone to be safe.

The inescapable truth is that with or without the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada's oil sands will continue to be developed.

The only question is whether this valuable oil supply will be refined in the U.S. or shipped overseas to places like China.

This is not a debate about the science, but a debate about the future of American energy policy. While the administration continues to delay and debate this landmark jobs and energy project, House Republicans have a clear vision for America's future — a future full of growth and prosperity where we can continue to safely and responsibly develop our energy resources.

My colleagues and I in Congress are tired of waiting on the president to decide which road he will choose, which is why we are taking matters into our own hands.

The House will vote this week to approve legislation, which will move Keystone XL beyond the regulatory process and finally allow construction of this landmark jobs and energy project to begin. H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, will address all necessary federal permits for the pipeline, including the Presidential Permit, and limit litigation that could further delay the project.

It will end the regulatory delays once and for all. We've been down this road before, as Congress had to intervene 40 years ago to cut through the red tape and get the Trans-Alaska Pipeline built.

That pipeline was a game changer then for U.S. energy policy, and Keystone XL will be a game changer today with its critical role in achieving North American energy independence.

It has now been over 1,700 days since the original Keystone XL application was first filed with the State Department.

Instead of siding with jobs, the president has allowed the environmentalists to hijack the project.

We can't afford to wait any longer. The lines has have been drawn. It's time to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Rep. Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, is vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Read the column online here.