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Peter D.
Democrat OR 4

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  • Keystone XL Pipeline Act

    by Representative Peter A. DeFazio

    Posted on 2015-01-09

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    DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Well, it is Groundhog Day come early to the floor of the House. It is cold enough I guess for Groundhog Day, but this will be the 10th time in the last 4 years that the House of Representatives has moved this bill with the assertion that somehow it leads us to energy independence, energy security, lower prices at the pump.

    Well, the reality is a Canadian corporation is going to build a pipeline from Canada to Texas. They are going to be exempt from paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, unlike most other projects in this country, because of a stupid ruling by the IRS--but that is nothing new--regarding tar sands. So they will be exempt from paying into that. So if this thing bursts, there is an accident, the taxpayers of the United States get the bill, not the taxpayers of Canada. They don't get the bill. The taxpayers of the United States get the bill. Now, that is one of a number of problems regarding this project.

    It is somewhat unprecedented, I believe. This may have happened at some other time in American history, but I do find it particularly ironic today, when we had the reading of the Constitution, that the effect of passing this bill, if it were to become law--and the President has already said he will veto it. But if this were to become law, the effect would be to give a foreign corporation the right to take private property from American citizens.

    I am not aware of any other time in the history of the Union where we have given a foreign corporation the right to take Americans' private property. And, yes, some people were happy to sell the rights, but many others weren't, including some in Nebraska and some in Texas. It has been quite contentious among landowners who are just having this corporation come.

    I would like to put in the Record a letter from TransCanada. We have blacked out the name of the recipient of the letter, but it is a true copy of a letter to a person who will have their private property taken by eminent domain by a foreign corporation, and the foreign corporation informs them that they will begin proceedings this month, I guess because of the anticipated Republican action, to take their private property away.

    TransCanada, Omaha, NE, December 8, 2014 Re Keystone XL Project Update.

    Dear Landowner: While we continue to wait for decisions from the Nebraska Supreme Court and from the U.S. Department of State regarding our proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, I would like to provide you with an update on our project.

    To date, Nebraska landowners have voluntarily granted us easements representing 84 percent of the required right-of- way for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. We continue to work to acquire the remaining land rights. In Montana and South Dakota, we have acquired easements for 100 percent of the privately owned right-of-way.

    Between September 2008 and earlier this year, five successive sets of extensive public comments were taken and five successive independent environmental assessments were published by the State Department. Each review confirmed the safety and environmental soundness of the project. The State Department is continuing its review of our Presidential Permit application and will ultimately make a determination whether the project is in the national interest. The State Department has not announced a definitive timeline for reaching that decision.

    In addition, reviews have been completed separately by the States of Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota. As with the federal reviews, these state reviews included extensive public input. Each resulted in state approval of the project.

    In South Dakota, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved the project in 2010. Because construction did not begin within four years, we must certify that the pipeline continues to meet the conditions upon which the permit was issued. We have initiated the certification process and we expect a decision in 2015.

    The State of Nebraska enacted legislation in 2011 and in 2012 requiring state review of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route. The Governor approved the route in January 2013, after a year-long public review process overseen by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. Following a legal challenge of the new law, a lower court determined that the law was not valid and that the review should have been overseen by the Nebraska Public Service Commission. The Nebraska Attorney General appealed the lower court ruling to the Nebraska Supreme Court and the Court is expected to make a ruling later this year or early next year.

    Pending a decision on the appeal, the law remains in effect as does the resulting Keystone XL route. In the event that the Nebraska Supreme Court affirms the lower court ruling invalidating the new law, we would expect a second Nebraska review to be required, this time by the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

    If instead, the Nebraska Supreme Court reverses the lower court ruling, affirming the validity of the existing state review, we expect that other aspects of that law would remain in effect as well. One of those aspects affects the timing available to complete negotiations to acquire remaining property rights in Nebraska. If parties ultimately are not able to reach voluntary agreement on acquisition of necessary land rights for the project, we are required to commence the legal process of eminent domain to obtain those rights within two years of the January 2013 Nebraska approval.

    We recognize that the Supreme Court ruling may not be issued before we are required to take action in preparation for the existing January 2015 deadline. While we would prefer not to initiate the process to acquire outstanding land rights while there is uncertainty, we are bound by that deadline in order to meet our responsibility to continue to prepare to build the pipeline necessary to safely transport North American energy.

    Regardless of your perspective on the project, we would welcome the opportunity to address your questions and concerns and discuss property-specific details for pipeline construction. When we are able to work with landowners to achieve mutual agreement where possible, we are better able to minimize potential effects of construction on land and operations.

    A member of my land team will follow-up with you or your legal counsel. If you have not heard from us or if you have questions, you are welcome to contact me. If you would like to see an operating pipeline, please let us know and we'd be happy to arrange for a [[Page H171]] tour of a pump station on the operating Keystone line in Nebraska.

    Sincerely, Andrew Craig, Manager--Land, Keystone Projects, TransCanada Pipelines, USA.

    Mr. DeFAZIO. Now, that is a bit ironic, again, on the day we read the Constitution and also of the party of individual rights for property owners. So that is also of concern.

    Yes, there will be construction jobs, and I am the first to admit we need more jobs in America. In fact, I voted against the President's so- called stimulus bill because it didn't invest enough in building infrastructure in this country. Instead, it did a whole bunch of stupid tax cuts because of Larry Summers, a highly acclaimed hack economist, and we didn't put a lot of people back to work. Seven percent went to infrastructure, that created jobs; 42 percent went to tax cuts, didn't create jobs. But that is another agenda the Republicans are pursuing is tax cuts to create jobs, but we won't get into that here today.

    So, yes, that will happen, but there are a lot of other investments we should, could, and I believe the chairman supports making that will create significant construction and infrastructure jobs.

    Now, were this just in isolation and it didn't involve the total destruction of the boreal forests of Canada, if I were Canadian I would be pretty upset about that; and perhaps the dirtiest, most environmentally problematic way of extracting fossil fuels from the ground to get these oil sands, the construction jobs might carry the day, but sometimes you have to draw a line.

    In this case, we also hear it is going to lead somehow to energy security. Well, that is interesting because the crude, tar sand oil, or whatever you want to call it, is going to come down to Texas without paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund--creating a potential problem for the future taxpayers of the United States--go to a refinery in an export zone in Texas, and, yes, it will be refined and then it will be exported.

    We are exporting millions of gallons of fuel every day, so to somehow say this is going to lead to lower prices at the pump in America--maybe it is lower prices at the pump in China or I don't know where else, Japan or someplace, but it isn't going to be here because the product is ultimately going to be exported. So it is also not going to do anything for our energy security, and at the moment we have kind of a surfeit because of fracking and other things of fuels, and prices are down considerably.

    {time} 1115 So those are just a few of the problems.

    And by passing this bill, the House of Representatives will attempt to preempt the executive authority of the President in this matter because this pipeline crosses an international border. The President has authority, and the State Department has been considering it.

    And even with the Supreme Court of Nebraska refusing to make a judgment, they didn't uphold the law of the Nebraska legislature. In fact, four out of seven judges--normally a majority in most places-- said it was unconstitutional, but Nebraska has a peculiarity that if the other three judges take a walk--which they did--then even though a majority found it unconstitutional, it is not found unconstitutional, and that is the end of the proceeding.

    So that is the big news out of Nebraska. They need a little work on their constitution, I think. So it hasn't received a stamp of approval there. There are still aggrieved landowners in Nebraska who object to the route and who are going to have their private property taken by a foreign corporation. So other than that, it is a great idea.

    And with that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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