Sen. Jeff Bingaman: Keystone XL ‘Sounds Meritorious’

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"Sen. Jeff Bingaman: Keystone XL ‘Sounds Meritorious’"

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) with President Obama.

This week, the U.S. Senate is considering whether to add language forcing approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to major transportation legislation. In a C-SPAN interview on Friday, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the chair of the Senate energy committee, indicated his support for the construction of the risky project after sufficient environmental review. After agreeing with the Obama administration’s decision to require a full environmental review of the pipeline, Bingaman claimed that “the American public would like to see us go ahead with the project to the extent they know what the project entails,” calling it “meritorious”:

They shouldn’t be forced to issue a permit until they are satisfied on the environmental effects involved. So I think that point is valid. Whether that requires another six or eight months, that’s open to question. It is a good issue to try to get resolved some way or another. The American public would like to see us go ahead with the project to the extent they know what the project entails. It sounds meritorious. We’ve got pipelines all over the country. That is true with most members of Congress, too. I think most members of Congress probably would like to go ahead to get the issue resolved.

Watch it:

Bingaman’s claim about the American public’s support for the foreign tar sands project is incorrect. A recent poll from Hart Research Associates found that Americans who are informed about the pros and cons of the pipeline don’t want it built by a 14-point margin. Americans without this information — influenced by the extreme pro-pipeline bias in corporate media — support the pipeline by an 11-point margin.

Bingaman also rejected Republican claims that there is an “urgency about getting this permit approved,” because oil production is so high that the United States is a net exporter of petroleum products.

If built, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would put six states at risk of toxic oil spills along its 1700-mile route, and would add about five billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere over its intended 50-year lifespan of bringing dirty crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries for foreign export.

Other Democratic senators who have expressed support for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline include finance chair Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), budget chair Kent Conrad (D-ND), Jon Tester (D-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Nelson and Baucus have criticized Republican attempts to speed approval, while Manchin has signed on with the GOP.

Transcript:

Q: Moving on to the Keystone XL pipeline, Mr. Chairman, this is a major issue that’s coming up in both chambers of Congress. the White House continues to push it off to 2013 saying we have not rejected this project on the merits. We want to give it a full review over this longer period. Republicans obviously object, say it’s been reviewed for three years. How do you feel the White House has handled this? Is it time for them to come to a compromise with the company given with the issue has become?

BINGAMAN: The basic point they are making is a valid one. They shouldn’t be forced to issue a permit until they are satisfied on the environmental effects involved. So I think that point is valid. Whether that requires another six or eight months, that’s open to question. It is a good issue to try to get resolved some way or another. The American public would like to see us go ahead with the project to the extent they know what the project entails. It sounds meritorious. We’ve got pipelines all over the country. That is true with most members of Congress, too. I think most members of Congress probably would like to go ahead to get the issue resolved. Maybe there’s way to get it resolved contingent on certain things being determined. I don’t know.

Q: Would you consider using the Tuesday forums you have with Senate leadership as a way to come together with Democrats in the Senate and find a way forward on Keystone?

BINGAMAN: I think that frankly the Congress is reacting to actions by the administration here. We need to see what the administration is going to do. If the course of action that’s described by the administration is reasonable, then I would hope to support that. The idea that there is an urgency about getting this permit approved, I don’t buy into that. The truth is we have a lot of oil. We are refining more petroleum products than we can use in this country. We are exporting petroleum products. Oil production’s up. Gas production is up. The idea that we have an economic challenge that needs a streamlined process, I don’t buy that. There are jobs that are going to be created, and that’s good. There are lots of things that we’ve got on our plate that will create jobs that I’m sure will be reflected in the president’s budget.

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