- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The fight about the Keystone XL pipeline will play a big role in the war over the nation’s energy future, a prominent House Republican said Tuesday.

It’s a make-or-break issue for environmental groups, Rep. Lee Terry, Nebraska Republican, told The Washington Times in an exclusive interview. They fear if the Canada-to-Texas pipeline is built, the nation’s direction on energy policy and development will be determined. But if they can defeat Keystone now, they can push a ‘green’ agenda.

“They feel like the war is now,” Mr. Terry said. “They want to eliminate any hydrocarbon energy, and they want to do it now. They want to turn the switch off.

“They realize if we start relying on Alberta, Canada, and our new finds, that our economy is going to be hydrocarbon-based for the next two generations.”

Mr. Terry might be the only lawmaker in Nebraska who always has been a fan of the pipeline project. He often felt like a “lone ranger” as one of the early Nebraskan supporters.

The state, as a whole, pushed back against the project. Initially, even his fellow legislators and Republican Gov. Dave Heineman opposed the Canada-to-Texas pipeline because of environmental concerns.

“The Keystone pipeline controversy caught us all off guard,” Mr. Terry explained. When the first phase of the Keystone pipeline was proposed, “no one raised an eyebrow.”

Much of the environmental concerns come from the plan to build the pipeline through Nebraska’s sand hills and the Ogallala Aquifer. A new plan has been developed that would avoid the sand hills, and the Nebraska governor has since endorsed the project.

The North American Energy Access Act, HR 3548, could speed the construction process up, said Mr. Terry who introduced the bill last week. He is hopeful that it will get support in the Senate.

“My point was, ‘Let’s find a way that we can get the darn thing built,’ ” he said.

Mr. Terry is excited about the jobs this could bring to Nebraska. He explained that while Omaha has a low 5 percent unemployment rate, trade unions in the area are suffering with a 20 percent unemployment rate.

“Nebraska workers are going to be working on the Nebraska part of it,” he said. “They’re anxious to go to work.”

Mr. Terry said the State Department eventually will recommend approving the pipeline in 2013, but it might be too late by then.

“I don’t see them as hostile,” he said. “I think they will make the right decision. But I see them as a co-conspirator in delaying.”

He denounced accusations that the State Department was coaching TransCanada on how to get approval.

“That’s the opponents throwing mud and hoping things stick,” he said. “It’s the same level of logic as saying that TransCanada paid for their own environmental study. Well, duh, that’s what the law says. In their application, they have to do the environmental assessment. The government’s not going to pay for that, because that’s not their duty, that’s not their job.

“They’re just throwing things out there to make it look like it’s a prostituted, corrupt system that is already being dictated by TransCanada,” he added.

• Tim Devaney can be reached at tdevaney@washingtontimes.com.

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