House Republicans want the White House to stop dragging its feet on a massive pipeline project that would reduce the nation's dependence on overseas oil and create thousands of jobs — all without drilling domestically.
The House passed a bill Tuesday giving new momentum to the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project — which would bring Canadian oil to U.S. refineries — that has been sitting on President Obama's desk for 33 months. It would require him to make a decision by Nov. 1.
The vote was 279-147.
"There is no other pipeline that has been studied to the point that this one has," said Rep. Lee Terry, Nebraska Republican, who introduced the bill. "It has gone through a very thorough, thorough examination. I just don't think there's a need for further delay or study."
Democrats disagree. Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, called it the "dirtiest crude oil on the planet" and said "that is a very high environmental price to pay for oil."
Canada's oil, know as "tar sands oil," is the most harmful type of oil for the atmosphere, according to dirtyoilsands.org. It produces three to five times more greenhouse gas pollution than traditional oil, and is the fastest growing source of greenhouse-gas pollution in Canada.
Canadian oil company TransCanada is looking to build a $7 billion pipeline to transport oil across 1,700 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries along the Texas coast. It is expected to deliver 700,000 barrels a day.
Pipeline proponents say this is a way to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. One Republican lawmaker even indicated this would help the United States stop "fighting for both sides of the war on terrorism" because much of nation's dollars now go to Middle East nations.
The pipeline also would create some 20,000 construction jobs in America.
"This is a bill that is not only going to create jobs, but it is going to help us break that dependence on foreign oil," Rep. Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania Republican, told lawmakers. "This important project has been delayed for far too long. The time has come for the president to finally move forward and make a decision."
Republicans and Democrats are arguing about the best way to keep the oil out of Chinese hands. Republicans say America should build the pipeline, because if it doesn't, Canada will deal with China. But Democrats warn that even if the pipeline is built, Canada could bypass the U.S. and send the oil straight to China.
Opponents want more time to study the issue. Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, called for "Congress to exercise more scrutiny." He and other Democrats fear it has the potential to do great harm to the environment and don't want to rush through the decision.
A study from the University of Nebraska released earlier this month raised concerns that the pipeline could pollute 450 miles of rivers that produce drinking water for the Midwest.
Recent oil spills, such as the ExxonMobil spill into the Yellowstone River, also have caused the White House to pause as it considers construction of the pipeline.
"Pipeline safety is not a matter that we can afford to take lightly," Rep. Anna Eshoo, California Democrat, said. "It's a dangerous business under the best of circumstances. I think it makes common sense that we examine this before we go ahead with it."
Republicans tried to minimize those concerns, but Democrats wouldn't budge.
"I'm sure that BP Oil said the same thing" before its spill Ini the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Cohen warned. "Just because they say it doesn't make it true."
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Tim Devaney is a national reporter who covers business and international trade for The Washington Times. Previously, he worked for the Detroit News, Grand Rapids Press, Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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