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Maria C.
Democrat WA

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  • Keystone XL Pipeline Act—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Maria Cantwell

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    CANTWELL. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Coats). Without objection, it is so ordered Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, we are going to be voting shortly on the motion to proceed to S. 1, the Keystone XL Pipeline. I am here to urge my colleagues to vote no on that motion to proceed. We had a couple of chances to come to the Senate floor already today and last week and talk about the important issue of energy development in the United States and how we move our country forward with job creation and energy development. The President--we got to hear his remarks and certainly we respect people's points of view that this issue is an issue we have had a lot of time to discuss.

    Mr. President, the issue is whether the American public and people in affected States have had a lot of time to talk about this issue and whether they have had a transparent process to talk about this issue.

    I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record an article that [[Page S143]] was in USA TODAY whose headline is ``Permit problems plague Keystone XL pipeline's S.D. leg.'' There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: [From USA Today, Jan. 7, 2015] Permit Problems Plague Keystone XL Pipeline's S.D. Leg (By John Hultjhult) The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday voted down a move by tribal and environmental groups to force a reboot to the Keystone XL pipeline's state-level permitting process. (http://www .argusleader.com/story/news/2015/01/06/sd-permit-keystone-xl- still-question/21359367/) PUC commissioners said there are clear questions about whether South Dakota's stretch of the massive and controversial project is still due the construction permit it earned in 2010, given a series of changes to its original scope.

    The 2014 version of the pipeline would be able to carry crude from North Dakota, for example, along with the anticipated crude extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

    Even so, commissioners ruled that forcing pipeline owner TransCanada to start over without being offered a chance to explain how it could make those changes while meeting its old obligations would be a denial of due process.

    ``We need to go through the process to find out,'' Commissioner Chris Nelson said.

    TransCanada asked for re-certification of its 2010 construction permit in September. The company had to ask for re-certification because four years had passed since the permit was granted.

    The pipeline stalled as President Obama chose Tuesday to delay the issuance of a federal permit indefinitely, a move that has frustrated supporters, who say the project will add jobs and boost energy security. If completed, the Keystone XL pipeline would release more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day.

    The GOP-controlled Senate is expected to take up the issue this week.

    In a new application for the 313 miles of pipeline planned for South Dakota, the company notes 30 changes to the original project, including the addition of North Dakota oil, minor route changes, alterations to construction plans and costs.

    The Yankton Sioux Tribe filed a motion to dismiss the company's application based on those changes, saying the re- certification process is meant for projects that have been delayed, not those that have altered dramatically in scope.

    The permit was issued with a set of 50 conditions, which were based on the project as approved four years ago.

    Thomasina Real Bird, a lawyer for the Yankton Sioux Tribe, told commissioners that the changes to the pipeline are simply too significant to allow the company to apply for re- certification.

    The company isn't just asking to re-certify a stalled project, she said.

    ``They're going a step beyond, and that step is not allowed by law,'' Real Bird said.

    Several others spoke in support of the Yankton Sioux Tribe's motion to dismiss, including Kimberly Craven of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

    ``I would urge the commission to start over,'' Craven said. ``It's a new permit, a new ballgame.'' Bill Taylor, a lawyer for TransCanada, told commissioners that re-certification is meant to determine whether delayed projects still fall within the scope of an old permit. Dropping a re-certification request because a project changes renders the re-certification process pointless.

    Keystone XL has changed, but Taylor said the company is prepared to prove that it still meets each of the 50 conditions attached to its 2010 approval. The pipeline is still a pipeline, the product is the same, and the end result is more energy security for the U.S., Taylor said.

    ``The current iteration of the project can and will meeting the conditions upon which the permit is issued,'' Taylor said.

    The PUC voted 3-0 to deny the motions to dismiss the application brought by the Yankton Sioux Tribe and joined by others. The hearing on the merits of the re-certification is planned for May.

    Ms. CANTWELL. This is an article that just recently appeared in the paper about how South Dakota is bringing up objections to the pipeline, and they want to do due process with their public utility commission to make sure this project meets the criteria of environmental and safety concerns and security concerns that State wants to see met.

    The reason this is still an issue in South Dakota is because part of the pipeline will go through South Dakota. There have been many changes since the original proposal was put forth, and people in South Dakota want to know exactly what these changes are and exactly how they will go through the process. In fact, one Native American tribe representative who was objecting said: The company is not just asking to recertify its old project. They are going a step beyond that that is not allowed by law.

    So there are people who want them to go through the normal process because siting of a pipeline of this nature is of great concern to local residents, to property owners.

    I find it interesting that in the debate on this issue, we on this side of the aisle are the ones who are advocating and standing up for property owners to make sure there is not a taking of their property without a transparent process and input for that process because that is exactly what transpired here when the company, with the help of the State of Nebraska, did not continue to proceed through their public service commission, their public utility commission, and instead tried to pass a law saying that the environmental review and security issues and oversight could be done by the Governor.

    Now, my colleagues who are Governors know that when you are Governor, you do not have the most transparent process. It is not as if citizens are going to come to hearings in the Governor's office. It is not as though all of that is there for review. Certainly those citizens do not have the ability to object and make sure they are getting the right compensation for their property and make sure issues of safety and security are addressed.

    So that is why some private property owners sued. Because the legislature and the Governor did not have the right to act; the law taking the power away from the utility commission and giving it to the Governor was unconstitutional. The separation of powers is divided between the Governor and their public service commission. It is the job of those UTCs--utilities and transportation commissions around the country--to protect the interests of the public in the siting of these facilities. That this authority was now moved up through the legislature to the Governor to decide all of that was clearly something that was not constitutional. I find it very interesting that four of the seven supreme court justices said, in fact, yes, that law passed by the legislature was not constitutional.

    So my question is, What is the hurry? Now that this issue, based on standing and the other justices not deciding, has the process to move forward, Congress feels some sort of urgency to be a siting commission and site a pipeline that has, No. 1, failed to go through the public process in the State of Nebraska; No. 2, has a public process now being questioned in the State of South Dakota, raising concern and urgency that those issues of the public be addressed; and No. 3, goes over what the President of the United States has said he wants to follow as a due process and make sure all the issues are brought to the table.

    I will remind my colleagues that if everybody here had their way, the President would have approved the original Keystone XL pipeline route. Congress thought they should stick their hands in the middle of this siting and land use issue and put in legislative language on a passed bill by the Congress saying the President, if it was a national security interest, must decide and site the Keystone Pipeline. Thank God those at the State Department and the White House decided that was not such a smart idea because that current pipeline went through a major aquifer that served eight States and posed a great deal of concern to landowners, farmers, residents, and various individuals about that particular proposal.

    So if this body would have had its way before--those who support this pipeline--they would have pressured the President to approve what is now a defunct, horrible idea of what was proposed by TransCanada. So now I ask my colleagues, are you sure all of the issues have been addressed here at the local level? Because clearly there are people in Nebraska and people in South Dakota who do not think so.

    Last I checked, our job is not to site pipelines; our job is to move our country forward on an energy strategy that will produce jobs, diversify our resources, and make the United States a leader in energy.

    I know my colleagues feel as if we will get a chance to address a lot of issues if we do move forward in a debate, and I am sure there will be many on many sides. I question whether we shouldn't be spending our time focusing on a bipartisan energy bill with lots of support on a whole myriad of [[Page S144]] others issues we need to work on, as we did in 2007, to make sure we are helping in the transformation of energy policy moving forward that will produce a lot more jobs.

    This particular proposal, as many of my colleagues have pointed out, while there are some immediate construction jobs, the long-term jobs are very few compared to many of the other things we have been doing.

    I would also like to point out that since Keystone has undertaken more development in the United States, that part of that development in the United States has also come into question lately. The security of the welding on the pipeline that has been done in the southern part of that pipeline has come into question, even to the point where I think the State Department has said to the company: We are going to have a third-party validator approve whether you are actually meeting the standards we would like to see in the development of this pipeline in the United States.

    But there are many issues here about safety and security, as my colleagues can point out who have brought up these issues before. My colleague from Michigan suffered one of the most devastating oilspills in her area. That was a tar sands oilspill. My colleague from Michigan, Senator Stabenow, has actually flown over that oilspill and cited that it took 4 years and $1.2 billion to clean it up and that the tar sands sunk to the bottom of the river and the river had to be dredged.

    So this is something my colleagues may not quite understand, that the tar sands, even according to the Commandant of the Coast Guard--we do not really have a solution for its cleanup when it spills in water. That is why I want to make sure that tar sands pay into the oilspill liability trust fund, as any other oil source does, so that we can make sure we are planning for the future and for getting help and response for any of these oilspills that could occur in the future.

    But needless to say Michigan and the Kalamazoo spill taught our Nation how dangerous this oilspill process could be. So why are we prematurely trying to cut off the debate on this issue at the local government level and say that we in Congress know better than these utility and transportation commissions and their transparent siting process for the American public? Why do we somehow know better that this is where a pipeline should go and how the process should work? So I hope my colleagues will stop and think more about how TransCanada proposal. I know some of my colleagues like to talk about being a good neighbor, and I like to say, you know, we in the Pacific Northwest consider British Columbia a very big friend and neighbor. There are many times that people talk about two provinces and five States working together as an organization on economic issues. So that structure has been in place for many years in the Pacific Northwest. But the people of British Columbia have not been a big supporter of tar sands oil expansion. Something like 60 percent of the public of British Columbia opposes having a tar sands pipeline cross their province. TransCanada knows they are not going to be successful in getting this oil from Alberta across British Columbia out to the Pacific because the people of British Columbia do not want it. So, of course, why not come to the United States? Why not ask them if they want a pipeline going through the middle of their country? British Columbia Premier Christy Clark laid out five principles that ought to have been met in order to site a pipeline of tar sands. Those conditions have not been met, and the province is officially opposed to the pipeline. So there was a lot of opposition and concern there.

    I will note for my colleagues that when a public UTC--a utility commission or public service commission--when they evaluate a project, they have to look at the environmental impact, and that is water supply, wildlife, vegetation, plants, and they have to look at the economic and social impact. They need to look at alternative routes, the impact to future development near the pipeline, and the views of cities and counties. Again, I will note that I think all of those are a part of having a transparent process instead of a political process on siting.

    So I am not for moving forward on what I consider special interest legislation, Congress siting for a special interest--this TransCanada company--a project that even people in Canada have raised suspicion about.

    I hope that we will allow the President to still do due process on such an important issue of environmental concern and that we will not start setting a standard that if you want to short-circuit the eminent domain and protection rights of individuals, we will just bypass all of that at the local level and somehow go to Congress and they will get that done for you. I think that is a very bad message.

    I hope my colleagues will turn down this legislation, I hope that we can move on to other energy issues that will help our country diversify and move forward in the future.

    I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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