State Department slams GOP bill to force Keystone approval

The State Department is bashing House GOP legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The legislation, which Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) is pushing, “imposes narrow time constraints and creates automatic mandates that prevent an informed decision,” Kerri-Ann Jones, the State Department’s Keystone point woman, says in written testimony set to be delivered to a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel Wednesday morning.

Terry's legislation would put the final verdict on the pipeline into the hands of the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), not the State Department. The bill instructs FERC to issue a permit and limits its discretion to reject the project.

House GOP leadership is weighing attaching the bill to upcoming legislation to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of the year in an effort to overturn Obama’s decision last week to reject the pipeline.

Jones, in her written testimony, raises a slew of objections to Terry’s bill.

“The legislation raises serious questions about existing legal authorities, questions the continuing force of much of the federal and all of the state and local environmental and land use management authority over the pipeline, and overrides foreign policy and national security considerations implicated by a cross border permit, which are properly assessed by the State Department,” she says.

Jones also defends Obama’s decision to reject the pipeline under a GOP-backed provision in a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut that mandated a decision within 60 days.

“We have been committed to carrying out a thorough, rigorous, inclusive and transparent review of this application and this was not possible within the timeline imposed,” Jones says. “We decided – based not on the merits but on the inadequate time period and incomplete review – to recommend that the president deny the permit.”