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John T.
Republican SD

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  • Keystone XL Pipeline Act—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator John Thune

    Posted on 2015-01-08

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    THUNE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cassidy). Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, we have begun the new year of the 114th Congress with a Republican majority and a fresh commitment to get Congress working again.

    Overwhelmingly, Americans supported the progrowth ideas of the Republican Party in the polls in the November election, sending a strong message about their frustration with the gridlock we have experienced in the Democratic-led Senate.

    So it is time to get to work, time to return to regular order and to debate openly legislation, to move bills through committee, to allow Members on both sides of the aisle to offer amendments, and to get the Senate back on track passing bills the way it should be. The American people deserve a Senate that works, and the new Republican majority intends to deliver.

    That is why it is so disappointing that President Obama would threaten to veto the very first bill Republicans plan to bring to the Senate floor for a vote--a bipartisan vote to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline, a bill that was introduced here in the Senate with 60 cosponsors.

    The Keystone XL Pipeline enjoys widespread public support, and that is not surprising. Polls have demonstrated that the American people are concerned about jobs and the economy, and they want to get the country working again and to strengthen our energy independence. The Keystone XL Pipeline will help do just that. Yet President Obama would rather hold the economy hostage to the far leftwing of his party than put American workers first. His war on energy runs counter to what this country needs--jobs and the affordable energy that will support them.

    I have shared time and time again on the Senate floor what President Obama's own State Department has said about the project. The State Department has concluded the pipeline will not only support 42,000 jobs during construction, but it will do so without significant impact on the environment--and, I might add, without spending a cent of taxpayer money.

    The Keystone XL Pipeline has been stuck in limbo for over 6 years and has become more than just an energy issue. In my own State of South Dakota, rail backlogs have caused tremendous delays for farmers trying to get their harvests to market. The Keystone XL Pipeline will help alleviate this backlog by taking 100,000 barrels of Montana and North Dakota oil off the rails, freeing up nearly two unit-trains per day of capacity that is sorely needed by other rail shippers.

    The pipeline will also bring tax revenue to South Dakota. The State Department estimates that in my home State of South Dakota alone, the construction of the pipeline will support 3,000 to 4,000 jobs during construction and generate well over $100 million in earnings. It will bring more than $20 million in annual property taxes to South Dakota counties. Places like Jones County, where I grew up, could greatly benefit by having this added tax revenue for their schools.

    The Keystone XL Pipeline will also decrease our reliance on oil from dangerous countries such as Venezuela. Yet President Obama and some Democrats continue to downplay all these benefits. They say the jobs are mostly temporary. Well, construction jobs are temporary by nature, but that doesn't mean they don't matter. Rather, it means we need to keep new projects such as Keystone XL coming to spur growth and to develop new infrastructure. By shutting down what would be a routine energy infrastructure project, President Obama is creating a difficult environment for future development and projects.

    The far leftwing of the President's party claim the pipeline will increase greenhouse gases, but reports from the [[Page S88]] President's own State Department undermine his claim. In its final supplemental environmental impact statement, the President's State Department noted that the Keystone XL Pipeline is ``unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.'' In other words, the emissions associated with the oil sands extractions will not change whether or not the pipeline is built. While oil prices may impact the production rate of oil sands, the State Department also found that ``the dominant drivers of oil sands development are more global than any single infrastructure project'' and that ``the industry's rate of expansion should not be conflated with the more limited effects of individual pipelines.'' And mind you, this is again from one of the five exhaustive reports we have seen from the State Department about this project.

    In fact, the State Department's final environmental impact statement also compared the operational greenhouse emissions that would result from the pipeline to those that would result from various transportation alternatives such as rail, rail and pipeline, and rail and tanker. The report found that the annual emissions from these alternative transportation modes would be anywhere from 28 percent to 42 percent greater than if the oil were shipped through the pipeline. Plus, a pipeline is safer than truck or rail.

    The American people have been clear on their feelings about this project. Poll after poll has shown their strong support for it. Republicans support the pipeline, Democrats in both Houses of Congress support the pipeline, and unions support the pipeline. The only people who seem to oppose it are President Obama and members of the far leftwing of the Democratic Party.

    After the Senate passes the bill, it will have one final hurdle to clear--the President of the United States. I very much hope he will reconsider his veto threat and listen to the voices of American workers and the bipartisan majority in both Houses of Congress.

    If the pipeline's economic benefits, the support of the American people, and five successful environmental reviews have not yet convinced the President to approve this project, I am pretty skeptical that he ever will approve it, but I hope I am wrong.

    I hope even more Democrats here in the Senate will join us and send a message about their readiness to work with Republicans in this 114th Congress.

    My colleagues can help show the American people that Congress has heard their demands for change in Washington and that their economic priorities will be addressed.

    I am sorry American workers have had to wait years for this project, but I am hopeful we can resolve this issue once and for all. The new Republican Senate majority is about creating jobs and economic opportunities for the American people, and it starts right here, right now with the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    We hope Democrats and the President will join us.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip.

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