- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2013

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would come nowhere near Massachusetts, but that hasn’t stopped the project from becoming one of the hottest issues in that state’s U.S. Senate campaign.

U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, a Democrat vying to fill the seat vacated by new Secretary of State John F. Kerry, has shrugged off intense pressure from one of the nation’s leading environmentalists to denounce the pipeline or face a massive advertising onslaught in his primary fight with Rep. Edward J. Markey.

Mr. Lynch was threatened by billionaire activist Tom Steyer and told to change his position on the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline by “high noon” Friday. That deadline was ignored by the Lynch campaign.

In a Friday column for The Boston Globe, Mr. Lynch refused to back down and reiterated his support for the pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil sands through the U.S. to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

He also took direct aim at Mr. Steyer and other environmentalists who, he said, “adopted the same divisive tactics as other special interests — the same tactics that have brought government to a standstill.”

“While most people in Massachusetts are worried about whether they can pay their rent or their student loans next month, out-of-state billionaires like Steyer spend tens of millions … telling them how to vote. I think most Americans are tired of being shoved,” Mr. Lynch wrote. “Billionaires won’t shove me around.”

Mr. Steyer is a prominent San Francisco-area Democrat who has been mentioned as a possible energy secretary in President Obama’s second term.

In his own statement, Mr. Markey, a House Democrat known for being a strong liberal voice on climate change and environmental issues, also disavowed the Steyer ultimatum.

“These kinds of tactics have no place in our political discourse and should be repudiated,” Mr. Markey said. “Mr. Steyer should immediately withdraw his threats and ultimatum, and stay out of the Senate race. This campaign should be about the people of this state.”

The back-and-forth has become a bizarre sideshow in the Senate race and is yet another example of just how divisive an issue the Keystone pipeline has become.

Environmental groups have mounted an intense effort on the Obama administration and Congress to stop the pipeline, but the pressure doesn’t appear to be working.

As part of the Senate budget bill passed over the weekend, an amendment declaring support for the pipeline passed with strong bipartisan support. Democrats such as Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia backed the measure, which passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 62 to 37.

The amendment, while symbolically important, carries little weight. The project still must be approved by the White House and State Department. A measure brought forth in the House would remove the need for presidential approval, but that has yet to be voted on and it’s unlikely such a bill could overcome a White House veto.

Despite the fact that it was largely for show, the Senate amendment does demonstrate just how much pressure the administration is under.

“Passing this Keystone XL amendment demonstrates with the clarity and firmness of a formal vote that the U.S. Senate supports the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and finds it in the national interest of the American people,” said Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican and co-author of the bill, along with Mr. Baucus.

Mr. Obama isn’t expected to make a decision on the project until the summer, but Keystone proponents are optimistic. Earlier this month, the State Department released a draft of a long-awaited environmental report that said the pipeline would have little or no impact on global greenhouse gas emissions and also would have no effect on American demand for crude oil.

Both issues had been raised by environmental groups as main reasons why the White House should reject the pipeline.



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