How will Secretary of State John Kerry's record on climate change affect the final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal? During today's OnPoint, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, discusses the future of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal following Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's approval of a revised route. He explains how the E&C Committee may try to affect the regulatory process and talks about the economics of the pipeline.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to a special edition of OnPoint from Capitol Hill. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today from his offices his Congressman Lee Terry, Republican of Nebraska. Congressman Terry, it's nice to speak with you again.
Lee Terry: Well, thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: Congressman, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has approved a revised route for the Keystone XL Pipeline, and in the approval, he said that the new pipeline route would cause minimal environmental impacts to Nebraska, and would provide $418.1 million in local economic benefits. On the same day, the Obama administration indicated that they would be pushing a final decision to after March. We're hearing indications that it may even be in June. What do you think is happening at the State Department right now?
Lee Terry: Well, other than having a new head of the State Department, I don't know of anything else. So maybe they just want to take a look at it. When I heard that they want to punt until the summer, I'm going, I'm thinking, "Wow, not again." They're just wanting to delay it.
Monica Trauzzi: Secretary of State John Kerry, though, has indicated that he would have an open mind in conversations with members of the Senate. He would have an open mind when this crosses his desk. What do you think his impact will be on the final decision? He's been big on pushing climate change legislation in the past. Will that have an impact?
Lee Terry: Well, it certainly concerns me, his environmental history, and he's opposed the pipeline in the past. I hope he means what he said at that hearing, where he said he'd be open-minded about it. I don't know how he could be close-minded about it before and now it's open-minded, so I worry that he will give the recommendation of denial.
Monica Trauzzi: The oil from this pipeline will be for the export market, and many of the jobs that will be created will be temporary in nature. Explain why you believe, then, that Keystone XL could potentially be a big boost for the U.S. economy.
Lee Terry: Well, not all of it's going to be exported. Some of the petroleum products will be exported, but a lot of the gasoline is going to stay in the United States. So it gives us an additional layer of energy security, not having to buy from Venezuela, or as much from the OPEC countries. But there's no doubt every state that it goes through leaves a layer of economic development, new property taxes, new jobs that are created. And so frankly, energy security and new jobs is a win/win for our country.
Monica Trauzzi: What would the economic effects, though, be on your state if the aquifer, for example, were to sustain some damage as a result of an oil spill?
Lee Terry: The aquifer is a great question, and we love our aquifer, and we want to protect it. There's been two major environmental studies done. Both have concluded that the, there is minimal risk to any, minimal risk to any environmental damage to the aquifer, and the aquifer moves so slow that first of all, it'd be difficult for the oil to actually get down to it, that they could clean it up before it would get there. But it stays there. So if that did, if that small chance that it got to the aquifer, it could stay there long enough for it to be cleaned up.
Monica Trauzzi: Canada has indicated that they've already had discussions with the Chinese. If this does not pass in the United States, they will plan to send this oil up to China. How much of this, then, becomes about our competitiveness with China, and essentially fighting for jobs?
Lee Terry: Well, the job creation and our competition with China is the major theme here. It's maybe not the primary theme, but the reality is in the environmental movement, when they say just don't buy this oil, and we're going to save our environment from all of the carbon emissions from this heavier crude, the reality is that more carbon will be emitted if you allow it to be exported to China through trucking, rail, ship. And their refineries don't have the same environmental quality regulations that we do, so there'll be less emissions in the refining if it's done in the U.S. So frankly, the environment globally loses by it going to China, and I think that's the major theme we need to get out.
Monica Trauzzi: You're a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. What are the committee's plans to impact the regulatory process on Keystone?
Lee Terry: Well, right now, we know that the State Department needs some time. We know that. They've had it for 30 days. We thought they could have reviewed this small sliver of the new environmental impact within 30 days, but now there's a new person there. We want to give him 30 days to review it. After that, we're going to really look hard about whether the administration and the State Department are dragging their feet again. It looks like that's the plan. So if they are, then we will huddle and determine if we should introduce and bring up a bill that will just deem it passed.
Monica Trauzzi: Does something like that have legs?
Lee Terry: Yes. There is a vast, a great majority of House members that are in favor of this pipeline, and a majority of the Senate. And so we think we can get it passed.
Monica Trauzzi: Let's talk about the Senate for a second. NWF's Jeremy Simons, who has fought long and hard against the Keystone XL Pipeline, has been appointed Deputy Staff Director of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Does this appointment sort of foreshadow what Democrats may be teeing up on the pipeline in the coming months?
Lee Terry: Well, that concerns us, because obviously if you're putting key staff members in key places that are openly opposed to it, then I, it causes me to worry. But the reality is, there's maybe other ways to bring it up in the Senate or force the issue in the Senate, and so all they'll do is create, force us to be more creative.
Monica Trauzzi: It's been really interesting to watch the strength of the environmental lobby versus the money and power of the oil lobby on this issue. Do you think this fierce debate is a signal that the oil lobby may be losing some of its clout in Washington, because they've had to fight so hard against the environmental groups?
Lee Terry: Well, you know, that's an interesting question. The oil companies really haven't been pushing me, so maybe it's the others. Since I've been a proponent, they don't need to talk to me. But I am surprised to some extent the power of the environmental lobby to be able to in essence delay it this long. There's no doubt that but for them, the President would have, he probably would have approved a year and a half ago.
Monica Trauzzi: Jane Kleebm I know you know her, one of the strongest voices ...
Lee Terry: Club.
Monica Trauzzi: ... one of the strongest voices in Nebraska against Keystone.
Lee Terry: Yes.
Monica Trauzzi: She has said that you're desperate for attention in your support of the pipeline project. And there's so much debate within your state on the project, despite the fact that the Governor has approved the new route. How concerned are you that there could be ramifications for you in future political prospects as a result of your strong support for this pipeline?
Lee Terry: Well, two points there, is this is the right thing to do, so that's why I'm doing it. And in Congress, you're going to make decisions every day that somebody doesn't like, so you just try and do what's right and support it, and this is important to our economy and our national energy security. The other part of it is over 70 percent of Nebraskans are in favor of this, so I feel like I have a great deal of support from the people.
Monica Trauzzi: Do you expect the President will give a little more clarity on this next week during his State of the Union address?
Lee Terry: I don't know. I'm wondering the same thing.
Monica Trauzzi: Energy Secretary Chu and EPA Administrator Jackson have both indicated that they're leaving their positions. They've both been criticized by Republicans for being too aggressive during their tenures. With both of them leaving their posts, do you think we're going to see a shift on energy and environment issues and how this administration handles energy and environment during the second term?
Lee Terry: Well, I think the administration's position will remain consistent. You're just not, may not have the rabid nature of the regulations with Lisa Jackson gone. But there's a lot of rumor swirling around that there may be even more rabid persons, people on the short list to replace Lisa Jackson with the EPA. And in regard to the Energy Secretary Chu, I hate to say this, but most of the criticism was on level of competency, not his enthusiasm for environmental projects. He was just doing what the White House told him to do on the grants to all of the solar and wind projects that weren't ready for primetime.
Monica Trauzzi: We'll end it there. Thank you for talking to me today.
Lee Terry: Thank you.
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