By Laura Barron-Lopez - 04/10/14 08:10 AM EDT
A group of Senate Democrats is urging President Obama to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline by the end of next month, saying the process "has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify."
The letter, spearheaded by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who faces a tough reelection bid this year, requests that Obama set a hard deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry to make his national interest determination. [READ THE LETTER.]
That deadline would give Obama a few weeks to decide the fate of Keystone, which would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf refineries.
Right now, the State Department is winding down its interagency review, which is expected to wrap up in early May. Kerry would then need to make his recommendation to Obama, leaving the rest to him.
"We need a definitive timeline laid out, a timeline that reduces the comment period for federal agencies, officials and other entities. A timeline that requires Secretary Kerry to present you with his national interest determination shortly after the comment and consultation period ends. This decision must not drag on into the summer," the letter sent to the White House Thursday morning states.
“This process has been exhaustive in its time, breadth, and scope,” the 11 Democrats wrote. “It has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify. This is an international project that will provide our great friend and ally Canada, a direct route to our refineries.”
It's no surprise Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Warner (Va.), Mark Pryor Ark.), and Mark Begich (Alaska), who all face reelection this year, signed the letter. All have previously expressed their adamant support of the $5.4 billion project.
While Democratic control of the Senate could ride on these races, Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said no one move by the White House on any issue would make or break her reelection chances.
Still, if Obama were to agree to a hard timeline for the process, Landrieu could give herself a little credit for it, which would be received well in her home state.
“From my perspective, there is no downside to approving the Keystone pipeline,” Landrieu told The Hill last week. “I’ve been urging [Obama] to do so for literally two years."
Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and John Walsh (Mont.) make up the remaining five Democrats who signed the letter.