Keystone XL Pipeline Act—Motion to Proceedby Senator Lisa Murkowski
Posted on 2015-01-09
MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, yesterday morning those of us on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee had an opportunity for good discussion about our Nation's energy future. More specific to the agenda of yesterday's business meeting was a bill that would allow for a much-delayed project--the Keystone XL Pipeline--to advance. It moved through the committee favorably. It moved through the committee with bipartisan support.
As I noted to several colleagues yesterday, the discussion we had in the committee about the significance of this pipeline--the significance of its contribution to our Nation's economy from a jobs perspective and from a resource perspective is considerable. Obviously there was debate on both sides--I think good, healthy debate--and it is debate I hope we will see reflected on this floor in the next week and perhaps the week following as we have an opportunity to debate. But first we have to get onto that bill. We have that process in place. We will have a vote on the motion to proceed the first of next week.
I am anxious, as the new chair of the energy committee, to move the debate here in the Senate on issues that are so important to us in this Nation. When we think about our Nation's security--national security and energy security--and when we think about our Nation's economy and prosperity, so much of it comes back to energy, access to energy that is abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure. These are principles I have laid out about my views of energy. I am hopeful that the discussion we will have on this floor will help advance us as a Senate, as a Congress, and really as a country in moving forward on those policies that will only make us stronger and more secure.
I felt the debate yesterday in committee was kind of a precursor of some of the agenda items we will see on this floor that will be brought forward by way of amendments. I would encourage colleagues, as they think about next week and as they think about the debate we will have on energy, let's stick to energy. We haven't had a good, robust debate on energy in a long while.
We have a lot of other concerns. We have colleagues who want to bring up the President's initiatives as they relate to immigration or perhaps health care. We will have plenty of opportunity here in the Senate under Leader McConnell's management to hear and debate issues that are of great substance and weight. But we have waited far too long for our energy issues to be fully debated on the floor, so I am welcoming that discussion.
We heard a lot of good reasons within the committee and we have heard a lot of good reasons here on the floor why the Keystone XL Pipeline is significant, is important to this country. This morning I wish to take a few moments to discuss some of the arguments that have been made against it and perhaps provide some context, some rebuttal, because I think it is fair to acknowledge that the Keystone XL Pipeline evokes some strong feelings, but not all of what we have heard is perhaps as factual as we would like it to be. As we note often around here, people are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. So I would like to address some of the responses.
One of the issues we heard yesterday was that this bill is almost too much. Well, if those on the committee and on the floor would look directly to the language of the bill, it is pretty simple. The text of the full bill takes up fewer than two pages. It is roughly 400 words long. It doesn't take long to read or understand. It is pretty simple. It is a pretty simple measure. It approves this long-delayed cross- border permit that is needed to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline. That is all it does. It approves a permit. It doesn't give some grand sweetheart deal to a foreign company. It doesn't feather the nest of oil companies. It allows for a permit to cross the border between the United States and Canada to allow for a construction project, and it does this while protecting private property rights.
It allows Nebraska to find the best possible route for the pipeline, and it requires all State and local obligations to be fully met. This bill does not deal with routing through the States. It was suggested that somehow or other we here in the Senate and the House are kind of like a zoning committee. That is not what is happening. It doesn't deal with the routing. As we know, that discussion took place at the State level--and appropriately so. So what this measure does is it just allows for that cross-boundary permit.
[[Page S125]] Some of the other points raised were that somehow or other this bill provides subsidies--subsidies--whether to TransCanada or to others. It does not authorize a single taxpayer dollar for any purpose. It doesn't create any new tax credits. It doesn't reduce current tax rates. The bill is simply about approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. It is that simple.
I would encourage you to read it. Again, it is pretty brief.
Another question raised yesterday in committee: Why the urgency? Why the push right now? We are just in the first week of the 114th Congress. Why are we pushing so quickly to advance this? Well, for new Members, such as the Presiding Officer, here today, this is the first opportunity you will have had to weigh in on the Senate floor on this very important legislation, but many of us who were here in the 113th Congress recall that it was just about 6 or 7 weeks ago that this same measure--in fact, the same language of this bill is what we had on this floor just before we departed at the end of the 113th Congress. We fell one vote short of cloture. We had 59 supporters in the Senate. We obviously had very significant Democratic support. Coming up with 59 votes was substantive. I think folks would remember that.
In effect, this is a little bit about unfinished business. We were working on it less than 2 months ago--a month and a half ago. We are now back in the 114th Congress. So what has changed? Well, what has changed is that the Presiding Officer is now a Member of the Republican Party, and our leader, Senator McConnell, is leading the Senate. We are now in a new Congress with new leadership, and the bill that has been introduced by my friend and colleague from North Dakota has 60 cosponsors--60 cosponsors--not people who have said: Yes, I think I am going to vote for this bill. These are 60 who have committed and signed their names, and we now have enough votes to pass it in this Chamber. So I think that is a good sign.
I think it is not a bad sign that what we are starting with is a bill that is unfinished business but also a bill that has strong bipartisan support, with 60 cosponsors. It is not very often in this body that we have legislation that has that level of support. So why not start this new Congress off with something that enjoys bipartisan support? I don't think it was the intention of our leader to start off saying: By gosh, it is going to be Republican ideas only. We are trying to find those ideas and those issues that will advance our country. I believe that moving forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline is something that will advance the best interests of our country.
So when we talk about timing, I think it is important to note that this is not only a good time, it is the best time to bring up Keystone XL. Our colleagues on the other side of the building are taking up the Keystone XL Pipeline today.
We had, of course, good news coming out of Nebraska this morning with the announcement that that litigation has been resolved, if you will, with the courts effectively upholding the pipeline route.
There have been some on the other side of the aisle who have suggested that we shouldn't cut off a process, that we shouldn't move until things have been resolved in Nebraska. And there are some who would say: Well, OK, that is something we do need to consider. It has been suggested that until that has been resolved, action on the Keystone XL Pipeline is somehow or other premature or untimely.
I want to speak to the aspect of timeliness and whether we are moving too quickly. The Presidential approval process is actually another reason we are starting on this bill in this Congress. A final ``yes'' or ``no'' decision has now been delayed by more than 2,300 days. I think the exact number is 2,303, and we are counting. That is more than 6 years--not to build a pipeline; we are not talking about it taking 6 years to build the pipeline; we are talking about 6 years to approve a permit to cross from the Canadian side to the U.S. side. The energy committee is on its fourth chairman since the initial cross-border application was filed.
We have seen a lot of process. We have seen a lot of talk here in this body. Literally everything that has happened during the Obama administration--the legislation that has moved, regulations, all of the extracurricular stuff that goes on outside--that has all happened while the Keystone XL permit has been pending. One has to look at this and say: 2,300 days and counting, over 6 years--it is pretty clear to me that the President really doesn't want to make this decision, and so if the Congress can step in and make it happen, the Congress should step in and make it happen.
I mentioned the decision coming out of Nebraska this morning and the fact that it allows--the pipeline route was effectively upheld. So that aspect of the process that individuals have been waiting for I think we can fairly say has been resolved.
In the Statement of Administration Policy--effectively the veto threat the President has issued on Keystone XL that I would note he issued the day we gavelled into the 114th Congress, before we started any of our business. In his veto message, the President said the legislation would cut short consideration of important issues relevant to the national interests. Again, I would just ask anyone, really? Some 2,303 days and we think we are somehow or other cutting short a process? In his veto SAP, he states further that ``the bill would also authorize the project despite uncertainty due to ongoing litigation in Nebraska.'' Well, it looks as though that part of it has been resolved, so that can't be used as the excuse.
It is not just in that Statement of Administration Policy. Back in April the Press Secretary for the President, Mr. Carney, stated, ``Absent a definite route from Nebraska, the decision, as I understand, by State is that that can't continue until the situation in Nebraska is resolved.'' OK. We are letting you know now that the situation in Nebraska has been resolved.
Further, there was a statement that came out of the State Department on April 18 in which they note that a core reason for the delay is ``the potential impact of the Nebraska Supreme Court case which could ultimately affect the pipeline route.'' All right. The State Department also has word now that we are no longer waiting for that.
So when one talks about timeliness, when one talks about why it is imperative that we allow this permit to proceed, it is because it has been 6 years. It is because the decks have been cleared. It is an infrastructure that will benefit our Nation as well as our friends to the northern border.
I would like to talk about the issue of job creation. We have talked a lot about the jobs that are created with a potential Keystone XL project. We heard in the committee discussion yesterday that, hey, this is not as advertised. There are only going to be about 55 permanent jobs and only 4,000 construction jobs that will be created.
We have been saying it is closer to 42,000 jobs. There is a lot of water in between 4,000 and 42,000. Who is correct? I think it is important to note that the numbers we are talking about are drawn from the State Department's final supplemental EIS. It is one of those situations where if you are opposed to it you are going to grab some low numbers, and if you are supportive of it you might grab the high numbers. But I think you need to read the whole thing in context, my friends.
The final supplemental EIS goes on to say: Construction contracts, materials, and support purchased in the United States would total approximately $3.1 billion, with another $233 million spent on construction camps. During construction, this spending would support a combined total of approximately 42,100 average annual jobs and approximately $2 billion in earnings throughout the United States.
It goes on further to say: Approximately 16,100 would be direct jobs at firms that are awarded contracts for goods and services, including construction directly by Keystone. The other approximately 26,000 jobs would result from indirect and induced spending; this would consist of goods and services purchased by the construction contractors and spending by employees working for either the construction contractor or for any supplier of goods and services required in the construction process.
So, again, these aren't Lisa Murkowski's numbers that are drawn from the air or Senator Hoeven, the sponsor of this bill, conjuring up these numbers. These are the numbers that come from the State Department's final supplemental EIS. This is what they are saying--42,100 average annual jobs, $2 billion in earnings, 16,000 direct jobs, [[Page S126]] 26,000 jobs from indirect and induced spending.
The State Department estimates construction workers on a seasonal basis--4 to 8 months per period. On an annual basis that is 1,950 jobs per year for 2 years, and that is where they get the 4,000 construction jobs.
But think about it. The nature of the construction business is not that these are jobs in perpetuity. That means you build things, and once they are built you move on to build something else. Of course they are not permanent jobs because we are not in a permanent state of construction. The key here is to approve projects in a timely manner so that these good, skilled, qualified workers can go from one job to the next and have permanent, stable employment--not necessarily on the same project for their entire lifetime but to be able, as a welder, as a skilled technician, to move from one project to another.
I would support this project even if it were just 4,000 temporary jobs, but it is not. What we are talking about is supporting over 42,000 workers over a 2-year period. That is significant. It is significant given the unemployment levels we are at--we are at 5.6 percent now. Isn't this what we are wanting to do, to bring on new jobs? In my State right now we are trying to figure out how we can move Alaska's natural gas to market, not only to benefit our State with revenues but to benefit jobs. We don't have a deal yet that allows us to build that pipeline, although our Governor today and our previous Governor and Governors before them have been working diligently to make that happen, and one of these days we are going to see it. But in the meantime, do you think Alaskans are saying: Well, we are not so sure we want this because these are only going to be temporary construction jobs. Absolutely not. We are building training facilities. We are getting our workforce kind of teed up for that day so that when it comes, we are ready because we want those construction jobs. We recognize it will be a construction project, and by its very definition it is not permanent.
Don't you think that bolsters my State's economy? Don't you think we are hoping every day that we are going to get moving on this project? Absolutely. Is it going to benefit my State? Yes. Is it going to benefit this country? Yes. Let's get moving on it, and let's get moving on Keystone XL.
I get a little frustrated when we talk about the jobs, and we have those who say we should dismiss the fact that if we can't get to a certain number of jobs, the project is not worthwhile. What we are doing is approving a nonsubsidized, nonfederally funded project. This is not costing us anything. This will be a benefit to us. It is not an entire industry, nor is it a multiple-year funding authorization for transportation projects around the country. I think those kinds of comparisons are inaccurate and to a certain extent unfair.
I suggest to those who criticize Keystone XL's job-creating potential to be careful. We don't want to put ourselves in a position where we are going to wind up opposing nearly all individual projects for any purpose all across the country just because they don't create enough jobs.
Take the Department of Energy's Loan Guarantee Program. It has funded some good programs, in my view, over the years. We have seen some renewable energy projects in recent years that I think have been beneficial to our region. By our count, more than one dozen of these projects would create less than 50 permanent jobs. We are not creating hundreds or even thousands of jobs. It will create less than 50 permanent jobs. One solar project created 7 permanent jobs, a wind project created 10, a geothermal project created 14, and we had a transmission line that created 15 permanent jobs. I think the question that has to be asked is: Should we have opposed these projects based on the number of permanent jobs that are associated with them? Is there a minimum number of jobs we are going to use as a benchmark for approval or denial or should we just be glad and encouraged when any new job is created because it means Americans have found steady work? This is what I thought we were working toward.
Keep in mind Keystone XL is one project. It is one project. It is one pipeline. There is one connector between Canada and the United States that connects up to a pipeline that has already been built in the South and will feed into our existing system. This is not brandnew frontier. We are allowing for a connector between Canada and the systems we have in the United States.
Keystone XL is one project. It is one small part of the employment that energy production and infrastructure development can provide for our Nation. We already have 19 cross-border oil pipelines. This is coming down from Canada in the North and coming up from Mexico in the South. We are already building up our LNG export capability and so much more.
Again, keep in mind this is not the first time there has been a request for a cross-border pipeline. We have 19 that are already in place. What makes this one so special? I will have more to say on that issue in the future. I know our leaders are expected to come down to the floor shortly. I look forward to a good, honest debate about our energy resources, our energy opportunities, and our energy challenges. I think the American public is ready for this discussion.
I don't know what happens around the dinner table in the hometowns of Georgia, but I can tell you in Alaska we talk a lot about energy, and we don't talk about it because we are an energy-producing State. We talk about it because it costs us a lot of money to keep warm in a cold place. It costs us a lot of money because we are not part of anybody else's energy infrastructure.
We don't have transmission lines that connect us from one place to the other. We have what we have, and we are thankful to have it. We are ready to share it with others around the country and around the globe, but we in Alaska talk a lot about the affordability of our energy resources. We talk a lot about how we can access our abundant resources. We talk a lot about how to use our ingenuity and technology to advance us so we can have cleaner energy sources and move to a world of renewable energy, and that is so exciting for us.
We have a lot of fossil fuel in Alaska--and we have a lot of everything else--and we are excited to be developing our geothermal, our marine hydrokinetic, our biomass, our wind potential, and our solar potential. It is a little dark there now, but our solar potential in the summer is second to none.
We are excited as to what we might be able to do in understanding how we can tap into ocean energy resources. It is exciting. We need to do more as a nation when it comes to efficiency and conservation. We should be leading in that way, and that is why I am pleased we will have an opportunity to again revisit the merits of the legislation my friends Senator Portman and Senator Shaheen have been working on so long as it relates to energy efficiency and taking that up as an opportunity for amendment. We have such good issues to talk about-- issues that the American public is talking about because it impacts them, and it impacts their family budget. It impacts their opportunities for jobs, and it impacts our Nation's security.
I have not talked today about the security aspects of it, but it doesn't take a foreign policy analyst to understand that gaining the benefit from an energy resource from our friends in Canada is better than asking for that same resource from the OPEC nations or Venezuela or from any nation that might not like us. That is a debate that again is so core to what we are talking about with Keystone XL.
We have a healthy relationship with Canada. It is important because when someone drives to my State, which is a heck of a long drive, they have to go through more of Canada than anyplace else. I want to have a good relationship with Canada, but I can tell you our friends on the Canadian border are wondering what is happening in the United States. It has been 2,303 days, and we can't make a decision on whether we should benefit from a jobs perspective, an economic perspective, and a national security perspective.
I look forward to the discussion next week, and I look forward to a robust and full debate on good energy amendments that will be coming before this body.
With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
[[Page S127]] The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.