Obama emphasizes Keystone XL emissions potential with Senate Dems

The discussion builds off recent comments Obama made to The New York Times, in which he recommitted to a June statement that he’d oppose Keystone if it “significantly exacerbates” emissions. 

The Canada-to-Texas pipeline is currently under review at the State Department. Its builder, TransCanada Corp., is awaiting a decision on a cross-border permit to complete the northern leg.

Senior Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote a letter to Obama on Wednesday requesting a meeting to discuss whether his emissions comments set a new bar for green-lighting Keystone.

Specifically, the lawmakers wanted to know if Obama had a deadline for making a decision on the pipeline, and how Obama would determine whether Keystone would “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution.

“We are concerned that your most recent statements have signaled an arbitrary and abrupt shift in how our nation approves cross-border energy projects,” wrote Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), subcommittee on Energy and Power Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Chairman Lee Terry (R-Neb.).

“Your recent comments have only added to the immense amount of uncertainty that currently surrounds the Keystone XL approval process,” they added.

Obama’s remarks to Democrats on Wednesday also dovetail with a statement the president made to The Times that Canada could “potentially be doing more” to control emissions from its oil sands, which Keystone would transport to Gulf Coast refineries.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) slammed Obama’s comments that Canada needs to strengthen its environmental rules.

“After five years of delay, the president is talking about adding new requirements to a project. He’s talking about adding those requirements in another country,” Hoeven said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Hoeven’s criticism turned up the heat on Obama’s recent Keystone comments, in which Republicans and industry slammed the president for suggesting the pipeline wouldn’t be a significant jobs generator.

Obama told The Times that Keystone would amount to “blip” on the jobs front for what’s needed to jolt the economy. He doubled down on that statement in a Tuesday speech, telling Republicans that Keystone “isn’t a jobs plan.”

Republicans have hammered Obama for what they say is a low-ball figure on Keystone’s jobs potential. They say Obama’s estimate is far less than State’s projection.

The jobs issue surfaced in the conference with Democrats, Cardin said, though he couldn’t glean whether that meant Obama was leaning one way or another on whether to approve Keystone.

— This story was updated at 3 p.m.

Tags Ed Whitfield John Hoeven

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