- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2013

President Obama has often used executive authority to get around Congress. Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to turn the tables.

On Friday, Rep. Lee Terry, Nebraska Republican, will introduce a bill to take Keystone XL pipeline approval out of the president’s hands.

If it becomes law, the bill — which has the backing of at least two Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee — would eliminate the need for a presidential permit and would officially green-light the 1,700-mile pipeline. 

If built, the pipeline would transport oil sands from Canada through the U.S. to refineries on the Gulf Coast and would create thousands of jobs.

Friday’s move comes on the heels of a similar proposal in the Senate.

On Thursday, Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican, and Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, put forth legislation to approve the Keystone pipeline using Congress‘ authority under the Commerce Clause.

“The Keystone pipeline is the perfect opportunity to put Montanans, and folks across the country, to work right now.

American workers cannot afford to wait any longer for Keystone jobs, and there is absolutely no excuse for further delay,” said Mr. Baucus, one of a growing number of Democrats loudly backing the project.

Other Democratic senators, such as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Sen, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, are co-sponsoring the bill, as are a half-dozen Republicans.

Of course, both pieces of legislation would need to be signed by the president.

It’s unclear if the measures could garner enough support to overcome a potential veto.

At the very least, the bills demonstrate the growing sense of frustration in Congress over the administration’s handling of the project.

Mr. Obama reportedly told Republican lawmakers earlier this week that he’s nearing a decision, but its still unclear exactly when the White House will give an answer. 

One isn’t expected until summer, at the earliest.

Lawmakers from both parties, oil and gas industry leaders and even Canadian officials — who have made clear they’ll sell their fuel to Asian customers if Keystone continues to languish — continue to put pressure on the White House.

From the other side, the environmental movement is pushing Mr. Obama to reject the project as part of his second-term pledge to fight climate change.

But environmentalists are less optimistic after a State Department report earlier this month that seems to have paved the way for White House approval.

The long-awaited environmental impact study, which still must be finalized, said that Keystone will little or no impact on greenhouse gas emissions since the oil sands will eventually be developed and made into burnable fuel — if not by the U.S., by China.

The study also found that Keystone would have little, if any, impact on American demand for crude oil. Environmental groups have dismissed the report and ramped up pressure on Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to kill the project.

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