With House Republicans unveiling new legislation to speed the review process of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, what are the prospects for approval of the project next year? During today's OnPoint, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) discusses the new legislation and explains why he believes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is better suited than the State Department to review the proposal. He also weighs in on the politics of the pipeline proposal.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to a special edition of OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. I sat down with Nebraska congressman Lee Terry in his Capitol Hill offices to discuss the House GOP strategy on Keystone XL. Congressman Terry, thanks for joining me today.
Rep. Lee Terry: Thanks for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: Congressman, you're part of a group of House Republicans that's just unveiled legislation that would give FERC the power to review a new route for the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill would replace the president's authority to approve or disapprove the project. Why do you believe that FERC is a better agency to handle this issue than the State Department?
Rep. Lee Terry: Well, FERC is all about energy and reliability and are the experts in pipelines. So, I want to take it out of the politics that have developed around the State Department and the White House and move the authority for the permit to an agency that really knows energy.
Monica Trauzzi: The issue arguably though, does cross over many points of jurisdiction. We're talking about national security. We're talking about energy. We're talking about the environment. Shouldn't state play some role then, especially on that national security piece?
Rep. Lee Terry: Well, their authority in this, statutorily leading up to this, is just to make a recommendation to the president. They'll rely on the same information or they have the same information that FERC has regarding the first environmental study, the second environmental study and now Nebraska's environmental study. So, here, even though this is oil from Canada, leaving it with the people that actually are experts in the energy, I think we're going to get a more energy-based opinion of whether this is an appropriate pipeline or not.
Monica Trauzzi: And does that mean you think that it's more likely that FERC would give you the outcome that you're looking for?
Rep. Lee Terry: Bluntly, yes. I think FERC, with their level of experience, will see that this is the most safely built pipeline with the most environmental route and will permit it.
Monica Trauzzi: Do you believe that the State Department mismanaged their handling of the review?
Rep. Lee Terry: I don't think they mishandled the review. I think the EPA did as much to drag this out and poke sticks into the wheels, preventing the issue from getting to the State Department. But now we're coming to the end. We have an agreement in the state of Nebraska that's going to resolve the issues about the Sandhills. We've got a self-imposed timeline in Nebraska of six months for new citing and study that's going to be paid for by the state, done by our Department of Environmental Quality. So there isn't any more accusations of who's paying for it. It's going to be the state of Nebraska. And more than enough information will be supplied to make a solid scientific-based decision.
Monica Trauzzi: You mentioned that this issue has been politicized. Aren't you further politicizing it though by requiring that a decision be made prior to election day?
Rep. Lee Terry: The point of removing it from the president is, yes, I want it done sooner than later. The contracts that have been signed can be met by 2014 if we begin -- if we, if construction begins sooner than 2013. So, this is imperative and so I think the White House would be supportive of not having to make a tough political decision during an election year. This way, an energy-based agency can make the decision on science and he doesn't have to worry about the politics.
Monica Trauzzi: How important is it to you to keep Keystone XL in the news?
Rep. Lee Terry: Well, I don't know if it's in the news is important to me, but I think for energy security to offset imports is extremely important to me. It's one of the reasons I came to Congress, is to have energy security and use our own resources.
Monica Trauzzi: Do the people of Nebraska want this built?
Rep. Lee Terry: Yes, no doubt they want it built, but is there concern about its route over the Sandhills? Yes and the governor has resolved that with this new compromise, so I would hope that most Nebraskans would now be on board.
Monica Trauzzi: So, do you think that with that new compromise that the environmental concerns relating to the pipeline are no longer there? I mean as you see it, are there still environmental concerns with the pipeline?
Rep. Lee Terry: Well, that's a great question and, from my perspective, I've always said I was going to rely on the environmental studies, the science, to answer that question, and the State Department, the other departments have said that was the safest route. But I think there's an emotional bond in Nebraska to our Sandhills. So, to move it removes that emotional barrier there. I think it would've been safe, but now it's going to be safe and not on the Sandhills. That's a win-win.
Monica Trauzzi: Let's talk about process for a moment. How are you expecting House leadership to move this bill?
Rep. Lee Terry: Well, I was informed today, earlier this morning, that it will be part of the unemployment insurance doc fix bill, kind of a larger end-of-the-year bill. So, I think it's important for us in Congress to have a good bipartisan vote on something like Keystone pipeline, that as soon as weather permits will employ as many as 20,000 laborers.
Monica Trauzzi: Bipartisan? How do you get Democrats on board with this?
Rep. Lee Terry: Well, we already had a different Keystone vote earlier this year, I think it was June or July, and we had 50 Democrats support us. I think, for a bill that went by rule, this is one of the largest bipartisan votes we've had this year.
Monica Trauzzi: The bill takes a very different path than what we see coming out of the Senate from Senate Republicans. How much of a problem is that and are you concerned that this could become a battle between the chambers and then drag it out even more in terms of a timeline for Keystone?
Rep. Lee Terry: Well, we've contemplated and we've had conversations with the Senate all week and we contemplated just using their State Department, but I think our decision -- my decision to go forward with FERC versus Senate bill with State Department is simply I want the thing done. And removing it from the political entities, State Department and White House, will be a better path than a more political path through the State Department. So, we decided to stay firm with FERC and hopefully, if the Senate can move something, we can come to an agreement.
Monica Trauzzi: What's your deadline then? When you want to see this done by?
Rep. Lee Terry: Well, I'd love to see it done by and I think it can reasonably be done by end of summer, early fall.
Monica Trauzzi: And that gives TransCanada and the Canadians enough time? I know there's been a lot of pressure from Canadian lawmakers that they're looking at their other options and one of those options is China. How concerned are you about that?
Rep. Lee Terry: I am very concerned about that. I'd like to see us be energy secure, not China. So I want Canadian oil, our friends just across the border from us, to be able to sell their oil to us. I think if we can keep our supply in North America, then we are secure and, frankly, I think that's what most Americans want.
Monica Trauzzi: Congressman, we'll end it there. Thanks for joining me.
Rep. Lee Terry: All right, thank you.
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