Bipartisan group set to take Keystone decision out of Obama’s hands – Washington Times

Bipartisan group set to take Keystone decision out of Obama’s hands – Washington Times.

By Ben Wolfgang – The Washington Times

President Obama has often used executive authority to get around Congress — and he has promised to continue that approach in his second term.

But now a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to turn the tables on the White House.

Late last week, Rep. Lee Terry, Nebraska Republican, introduced a bill to take approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline out of the president’s hands. The measure has the support of at least two Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The bill eliminates the need for a presidential permit and would officially green-light the 1,700-mile pipeline, designed to transport oil sands from Canada through the U.S. to refineries on the Gulf Coast. It also would create thousands of jobs in the process.

“The time is up. No more delays. It’s time to build the Keystone pipeline,” Mr. Terry said at a Capitol Hill news conference Friday.

The move comes on the heels of a similar proposal in the Senate. Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican, and Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, have put forth legislation to approve the project using Congress‘ authority under the Commerce Clause.

Other Democratic senators, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, are co-sponsoring the bill, as are a half-dozen Republican senators.

“The Keystone pipeline is the perfect opportunity to put Montanans, and folks across the country, to work right now,” Mr. Baucus said in a statement last week, after the measure was introduced. “American workers cannot afford to wait any longer for Keystone jobs, and there is absolutely no excuse for further delay.”

Of course, both pieces of legislation would need to be signed by the president whose powers it would strip. While it appears both bills could easily pass in their respective chambers, it’s unclear whether either could garner enough support to overcome a potential veto by Mr. Obama.

At the very least, the bills once again demonstrate the growing sense of frustration in Congress over the administration’s handling of the project.

Mr. Obama has continually put off a final decision on the pipeline, even in the face of growing pressure from lawmakers, the oil and gas industry and even the Canadian government, which has begun to make clear that it intends to do business with China and in other Asian markets if the U.S. refuses to build Keystone.

The president reportedly told lawmakers last week that he is nearing a decision, but it’s still unclear exactly when the White House will give an answer.

The answer isn’t expected until summer, at the earliest, after the State Department finalizes its comprehensive environmental impact review of the project.

A draft of that report, released earlier this month, seems to pave the way for approval of the project. The long-awaited study found that the pipeline will have little or no impact on greenhouse gas emissions, one of the most frequent complaints raised by environmentalists and other opponents of the project.

Specifically, the study said that the fuel eventually will be developed and made into burnable fuel by someone — if not by the U.S., then by China.

The study also found that Keystone would have little, if any, impact on American demand for crude oil. Environmental groups have dismissed the report and ramped up pressure on Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry — formerly one of Congress‘ loudest voices on climate change and the environment — to kill the project once and for all.

The study, had it been a damning indictment of the project, could have been used by the White House as environmental justification for rejecting Keystone. Instead, it is being held up as proof that the pipeline should be built immediately.

“All of this unnecessary delay has done nothing to improve our energy security or our economy,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican and co-sponsor of the Senate bill. “If the White House can’t see that, then it’s time for Congress to act.”

 

Two-Thirds of American Gun Owners Would “Defy” a Federal Gun Ban – Leah Barkoukis

Two-Thirds of American Gun Owners Would “Defy” a Federal Gun Ban – Leah Barkoukis.

AR-15-300x176It’s safe to say Feinstein, Obama and the rest of the gun control gang face an uphill battle when it comes to limiting any Second Amendment rights. According to a Fox News poll, most Americans—both Republicans and Democrats—would defy any new laws that would take away their guns.

But on to Question 47, addressed to those with a gun in their home: “If the government passed a law to take your guns, would you give up your guns or defy the law and keep your guns?”

The response: 65 percent reported they would “defy the law.” That incudes 70 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of conservatives, 52 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of liberals.

The good news is that it probably won’t come to this. Analysis from Bloomberg shows that if a vote were held today, Feinstein’s proposed gun control legislation, which would prohibit the sale or transfer of an estimated 158 “assault weapons,” would fail to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

At least six of the 55 senators in the Democratic caucus have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to a ban, the review found. That means Democrats wouldn’t have a 51-vote majority to pass the measure, let alone the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster to bring it to a floor vote. […]

The five Democratic senators from traditionally pro-gun states who have expressed skepticism about the bill are Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, also said he opposes a ban.

Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican who supported similar legislation in 2004, has indicated she is unlikely to back the proposed ban in its current form.

The reality, as these and many other lawmakers recognize, is that piling on new laws won’t solve the problem. In fact, The Washington Timesanalysis of recent state laws shows “no discernible correlation between stricter rules and lower gun-crime rates in the states.” It’s time our leaders used reason—not emotion—to guide their legislative endeavors.

 

OWENS: Keystone Kops energy policy – Washington Times

 

Keystone XL demonstration, White House,8-23-20...

Image via Wikipedia

OWENS: Keystone Kops energy policy – Washington Times.

Obama oil-pipeline rejection undermines State of the Union promises

By Mackubin Thomas Owens – The Washington Times

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama had barely cleared his throat when he outlined his vision for an American “future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world.” Just days before, he had delivered a crippling blow to his own plan.

Mr. Obama’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, is one more example of his administration’s ongoing war on fossil fuels – and the most recent example of how the president promises the exact opposite of what he is delivering. What better way to sever our dependence on those “unstable parts of the world” than to switch a major portion of our oil imports from dictatorships to a stable democratic neighbor, starting now?

Instead, the administration continues to squander taxpayer funds on “green energy” debacles such as Solyndra and the entire renewables/electric-car agenda – which, even in Mr. Obama’s plan, will only yield significant benefits in the far future.

Of course, when he made the pipe-line decision, the president blamed congressional Republicans for forcing a snap decision. But the fact is that he has had three years to make a decision. It’s not as though the project was not vetted by the usual bureaucratic suspects. In a letter to the president on Oct. 19, 22 House Democrats observed that “the Department of State’s Final Environmental-Impact Statement reaffirmed the findings of the two previous environmental-impact statements; namely, that the Keystone XL Pipeline will have no significant impact on the environment.”

Indeed, some of the sharpest criticism of the Keystone decision has come from congressional Democrats. For instance, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said that “President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is a major setback for the American economy, American workers and America’s energy independence.” One of the Democratic Party’s key constituencies, organized labor, is not happy, either.

Just a day before the decision, the president’s own jobs council argued in favor of not only more oil, natural gas and coal production, but also energy-infrastructure projects such as the Keystone XL. Once completed, the pipeline would carry more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day and directly create 20,000 truly “shovel-ready” jobs. The least that can be said is that the Keystone decision flies in the face of Mr. Obama’s rhetoric about creating jobs.

Astoundingly, on its website, the White House argues that the loan-guarantee program of the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will create more jobs than construction of the Keystone XL. But the loans provide government subsidies to inefficient companies that are unable to compete in the market, e.g. Solyndra. The EPA rule will contribute to the shutting down of a large percentage of domestic coal-fired power plants, America’s largest source of electricity. How will that reduce unemployment among any groups other than lawyers and government bureaucrats?

Unsurprisingly, the main resistance to the Keystone XL has come from environmentalists, who claim that the pipeline endangers water resources and the like. However, the State Department, which had jurisdiction since the pipeline crosses an international border, conducted a three-year study addressing risk to soil, wetlands, water resources, vegetation, fish, wildlife and endangered species, concluding that building the pipeline would pose minimal environmental risk. In addition, the area the Keystone XL would traverse is already a web of pipelines.

Ironically, not constructing the Keystone pipeline has the potential to increase environmental risk. The Keystone XL route foreclosed, the Canadians will build a pipeline to their Pacific coast and ship crude oil to China by tanker. Tanker spills are more frequent and destructive than pipeline leaks. Indeed, although the long-term trend in spills from all sources is sharply down, the spill rate from shipping oil by tanker is about six times higher than spills from offshore oil rigs or pipelines.

At a time when unemployment remains high in the United States and unrest in the Middle East threatens Western access to oil in that region, the president’s decision is absurd. It is only part of an energy policy worthy of the Keystone Kops.

Mackubin Thomas Owens is professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College and editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.