Jim Matheson backs bill to 'green light' Keystone pipeline
Washington • Rep. Jim Matheson joined a bipartisan group on Friday to push legislation that would automatically approve the Keystone Pipeline, a measure that is an end-run around President Barack Obama's decision on the project and that overrides any pending environmental studies.
The Utah Democrat says federal reviews have already shown no substantive impact on the environment for the pipeline extending from Canada through the United States and that it's time to stop the Obama administration's delay on the project that could create upward of 100,000 indirect and direct jobs.
"If we want to stand up for moving our country forward for energy security and jobs, I'm going to be there," Matheson said after a news conference Friday announcing the legislation, which is likely to hit the fast-track in the GOP-controlled House.
The bill, which has also been introduced in the Senate, is similar to a measure that approved the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, which superceded any legal barriers. The legislation removes any need for a presidential permit and assumes all environmental reviews are completed.
"It's called a green light," said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.
Matheson's involvement with the Keystone approval bill, though, has rankled environmental activists in Utah who wonder why their Democratic representative is backing the effort.
"It's very disappointing that Congressman Matheson would not take a longer viewpoint on this issue and realize that is just a project that's going to further our addiction to dirty, dirty energy and kick the can down the road addressing one of the most serious issues, climate change," said Tim Wagner with the Sierra Club of Utah.
"To authorize legislation that does an end-run around the review process doesn't speak well for the laws that are set up for our democracy," Wagner added.
The 1,700-mile pipeline would bring oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Supporters have noted it would be a big boost to the economy with thousands of jobs created for construction as well as lessen America's need to rely on Venezuela or Middle East countries for oil.
Other organizations have said those job numbers are exaggerated and that there's a big potential for the oil or its byproducts to be exported.
Forced to make a decision by Republican legislation previously, Obama turned down the permit and the company proposing the project, TransCanada, filed again to seek approval.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said this week that the approval process is moving forward and there would be a decision but he declined to give a timeline of when it could come.