Senators to Obama: Don’t let Keystone decision drag into 2014

Four senators – two from each party – say President Obama should not allow a State Department inspector general (IG) probe of the Keystone XL pipeline review process to further delay a final permit decision.

The IG recently said its review of the department's selection of a contractor analyzing the project would bleed into 2014, raising the prospect that a federal permit decision could await the outcome.

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Sens. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-N.D.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE (D-La.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Manchin-McConnell meet amid new voting rights push Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee MORE (R-S.D.) and Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBiden nominates Nicholas Burns as ambassador to China Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Bottom line MORE (D-Mont.), all pipeline backers, together issued statements Thursday criticizing the potential for more delays in the five-year federal review.

“This tactic of delay and deferral must stop. It is depriving America of jobs, hurting the American economy and hurting the American people,” Hoeven said in one of the statements, which underscore efforts by pipeline backers to keep political pressure on the White House.The senators noted that an earlier phase of the IG’s inquiry into a third-party contractor’s environmental review gave the project a basically clean bill of health in early 2012.

But that probe yielded new recommendations about the selection process. The IG is now looking at whether those recommendations from that review were applied to selection of the current contractor, Environmental Resources Management, a company green groups allege has a conflict of interest.

The senators say this shouldn’t drag out a final decision on whether to permit TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline, which would bring oil from Alberta’s oil sands projects across the border en route to Gulf Coast refineries.

“We cannot sit by while excuse after excuse delays jobs in Montana and across the country,” Baucus said. “We've had years of studies and the President's own State Department has repeatedly concluded the environment won't be harmed. It's past time to put Americans to work building the Keystone pipeline.”

Keystone, in addition to transporting Canadian oil, would haul oil from North Dakota and Montana.