Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is undecided on whether he will support legislation introduced on Monday that would approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
More than 40 members of the Senate signed on as cosponsors of the legislation introduced by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. It would require the U.S. State Department to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the state of Nebraska within 30 days to assist in rerouting a portion of the proposed pipeline around the environmentally sensitive Ogallala Aquifer in the Nebraska Sand Hills.
Despite not being a cosponsor, Conrad has been in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline project from the beginning, said spokesman Christopher Gaddie. He released a statement from Conrad via email on Monday outlining his position on the pipeline legislation.
Conrad's statement reads:
"I am in favor of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, this Legislation could actually produce additional delays in the pipeline construction. If this legislation did pass, it is likely that lawsuits would soon follow due to conflicts with environmental review laws.
"The result would only mean further delay of this vital pipeline. The better course to completion is to allow TransCanada to proceed with the rerouting selection to avoid the Ogallala Aquifer and then to re-apply."
Hoeven spokesman Don Canton said more than enough time has been spent reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline and that it was time to move forward.
"This project has been under review for more than three years," Canton said.
Ryan Bernstein, deputy chief of staff for Hoeven, said the legislation would allow the pipeline to move forward while giving the state of Nebraska time to finalize a new route around the Ogallala Aquifer.
"It gives Nebraska all the time it needs," Bernstein said.
Bernstein noted that the Congressional Research Service had issued a nonpartisan legal analysis on Jan. 20 stating that Congress has the authority to regulate foreign commerce under the Commerce Clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
"We think we're in good shape, legal-wise," Bernstein said. A total of 43 of the
44 cosponsors of the Keystone XL pipeline legislation are Republicans. The lone Democratic Party cosponsor is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.
Hoeven helped introduce legislation last November that would have required the State Department to approve a permit for the 1,700-mile pipeline unless President Barack Obama determined that the project not to be in the national interest.
Obama issued a statement on Jan. 18 rejecting the pipeline, saying that the GOP deadline of late February didn't allow the State Department to complete its review.
If approved, the pipeline would stretch from the Canadian province of Alberta to the Gulf Coast.
Of the 830,000 barrels of oil per day pipeline capacity, a total of 100,000 barrels per day would be dedicated to Bakken crude.
The majority of the oil transported through the pipeline would be Canadian oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta.
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