- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The derailment and explosion this week of a train carrying crude oil through West Virginia shows the need for President Barack Obama to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch said Thursday.

Hatch, Utah’s senior Republican senator, made the comments Thursday during an annual appearance before Utah’s Legislature.

Speaking to members of the state House of Representatives, Hatch said the explosion illustrates the risk of transporting oil by rail and the pipeline would be safer.

Congress has approved the Canada-to-Gulf Coast pipeline but Obama has threatened to veto it.

Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, also discussed the address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint meeting of Congress next month.

House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu without letting the White House know in advance. It angered the Obama administration as a breach of protocol and several Democratic lawmakers had said they will not attend the March 3 speech out of protest.

“Congress is a separate branch of government and we ought to have a right to do that if we want to, and I’m going to be there,” Hatch said Thursday.

He called Netanyahu “tough as nails” and one of the great leaders of the world who is critical to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

“To raise the fuss that they have, I think, is pretty reprehensible,” Hatch said.

He said if Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t attend, Hatch will take his seat.

Earlier this year, Hatch was sworn in as the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, making him the third in the line of presidential succession behind Biden and House Speaker John Boehner.

Hatch on Thursday also described a bill he’s working on that would provide restitution to victims of child pornography.

“These children have not been able to get retribution against those people who have taken them on and exploited their lives in ways that are just repugnant to everything that’s decent in this world.”

Hatch also described Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obama’s signature health care law, revamp tax laws and expand the military’s Utah Test and Training Range west of Salt Lake City.

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