Freshman Dem senators quickly join Keystone pipeline push

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“We have gone through a process with the Keystone pipeline where it has taken us longer to evaluate that pipeline than it took us to fight a world war. That is a frustrating point to the American public who realizes this is not only a great security project, but it’s a jobs project, it’s an economic project,” Heitkamp said at a bipartisan press conference in the Capitol Wednesday.

The pipeline would bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. It would also carry oil from the booming Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana.

The lawmakers, in the letter, said Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman’s (R) approval Tuesday of a route through his state should prompt the White House to “expeditiously” complete the review and approve TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline.

Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) spearheaded the letter.

“We ask you not to move the goalposts as opponents of this project have pressed you to do. We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security,” the letter states.

The State Department is leading the federal review, and a spokeswoman said this week that the process won’t be done until the end of March at the earliest, and hinted that it may take longer.

The timeline could put the matter into the lap of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who is widely expected to win confirmation to become secretary of State, replacing current Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Hoeven said he plans to raise the topic with Kerry when they meet one-one-one about his nomination.

Hoeven, asked whether the discussion with Kerry about Keystone’s fate would affect whether he will vote for Kerry, replied, “I am going to make it a very important consideration.”

On Thursday, Kerry will have his nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which could provide other lawmakers a chance to ask him about climate change and Keystone.

Environmentalists oppose the pipeline due to greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands extraction and use, arguing it will help lock in long-term, increased development of the massive Canadian oil sands resources.