President Barack Obama is being pressed by opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline to tie any approval to measures that would curb climate change, reflecting mounting pressure on the administration to mitigate the project’s impact if it goes forward.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, is among those urging new steps to limit greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S. if TransCanada Corp.’s petition to build the $5.3 billion pipeline is approved. Other lawmakers say the administration could extract concessions from Canada, such as a higher carbon tax in Alberta, where the pipeline to carry tar- sands oil to U.S. refineries originates.
“He touted himself as the environmental president, and he’s going to have to make sure that if he decides to go with it that there is some kind of balance,” said Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat.
Most congressional Democrats, including leaders in the House and Senate, have joined environmentalists in fighting the project backed by the oil industry, labor unions, the Chamber of Commerce and Canadians. Some lawmakers who oppose the pipeline say it appears probable Obama will sign off, triggering their calls to mitigate environmental and political fallout.
“I think it’s going to happen,” said Representative Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat and member of the House’s Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition. “The odds look pretty strong right now.”
In a deliberation that has stretched over four years, Obama first rejected the pipeline because its original route took it through Nebraska’s Sand Hills region, a national natural landmark. Calgary-based TransCanada changed the route and filed a new application, now under review by the State Department, which must act on pipelines crossing an international border.
Environmental groups dismiss the State Department’s March 1 draft assessment that said the pipeline won’t raise the risk of global warming, because the oil from Alberta would find its way to market with or without the line. They say Keystone will show whether Obama will fulfill an inaugural-address vow to tackle global warming.
A decision is expected by year’s end. The administration hasn’t said whether it could try to offset any approval with other environmental policy changes.