Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said the Republican governors of the Midwestern states who back the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline should bypass the federal government altogether and make the agreements necessary to get the $7 billion project up and running.
"We ought to take it on ourselves. We can make agreements between the states to put that pipeline in," the two-term Republican governor said Tuesday on The Washington Times-affiliated "America's Morning News" radio program.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil from the Canadian province of Alberta across North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
The project has been put on indefinite hold by the Obama administration amid concerns that the pipeline poses significant risks to environmentally sensitive areas, including the massive underground Ogallala aquifer, the source of drinking water for much of the Midwest. Environmental groups have strongly lobbied President Obama to kill the project, and the administration recently pushed off the effective date on a final decision until after the 2012 presidential election.
Republicans in Congress, with the support of some Democrats, are trying to force the administration to move on the project and have attached approval of the pipeline to a bill that would extend the payroll tax cut, an end-of-the-year legislative priority for the White House.
"Extending the payroll tax and putting on that as a rider the Keystone pipeline — I think [Congress] has no other alternative," Mr. Otter said. "You're talking about 20,000 jobs, high-paying jobs, union jobs."
Mr. Otter, who served three terms in the U.S. House, from 2001 to 2007, said the gridlock over the Keystone XL project is the latest example of what's wrong with Washington.
"Those were the same conflicts that were going on when I was there for six years, which is one of the reasons I got out of there. We just weren't getting anything done," he said.
Mr. Otter, who was mentioned in some corners as a possible GOP presidential dark horse earlier this year, has endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012.
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