Senator Lugar has just proposed a bill that would block the efforts by the Obama Administration to ensure that farmers and other landowners are protected as it considers TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The bill would require the Administration to rubber stamp the project in 60 days with no further review along a route that hasn’t even been determined yet. There isn’t even agreement on how significant the reroute will be – this bill would force the President to approve a route sight unseen. Senator Bernie Sanders responded to this news by pointing out that “at a time when the State Department Inspector General is conducting a special inquiry into possible conflicts of interest related to the State Department’s handling of this project, it is completely inappropriate to try to short-circuit the thorough environmental review process federal law requires.” Just as troubling, the bill ignores the voices of Americans across the country who have asked the President to consider their serious concerns about the impact Keystone XL would have on landowners, the environment and our country’s energy future.
It is particularly disappointing to see this bill coming from Senator Lugar, who in the past has been a champion for farmers and rural communities. TransCanada has spent years trying to railroad the American people with a poorly considered route by bullying landowners with eminent domain, threatening States with lawsuits and providing government officials with misleading information about the feasibility of alternatives. President Obama’s decision to consider a new route for the pipeline has given farmers and landowners a more level playing field when dealing with TransCanada. Forcing the President to approve a route, sight unseen, would pull the carpet out from under the feet of these landowners and the State of Nebraska.
The bill includes widely discredited figures about jobs and energy. The only independent studies on the project show that the pipeline would produce no net jobs and provide a route for oil from the United States to the international market. The way to independence from foreign oil is through technologies that will allow us to use less of it. In addition, these clean energy technologies have the potential to create millions of long term jobs for America.
Fortunately, Lugar’s bill does not appear likely to get the support it would need to pass the Senate. But it is a clear signal that powerful interests are seriously invested in seeing Keystone XL become a reality. Keystone XL may be in their interests, but it is not in the interests of the United States. This bill is a reminder that the American people will have to remain at the table if they want their interests to be represented.