July 13, 2012
Keystone oil pipeline finds champions in Montana Democrats eyeing local benefits
The Washington Post
July 8, 2012
The fact that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has fought so hard for the Keystone XL pipeline underscores the changing politics of oil: A global commodity has become a local issue.
“All I care about is working right now to get the most jobs for Montanans, and Keystone is a part of that solution,” Baucus said in an interview. “To me, it’s a no-brainer. . . . People at home, they want this.”
Baucus has emerged as one of Capitol Hill’s fiercest proponents of the project, largely because the pipeline extension will mean that oil extracted from parts of Montana and North Dakota will have an easier route to Gulf Coast refineries.
He not only has lobbied President Obamaand Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — whose department is reviewing Trans¬Canada’s proposal to construct a 1,700-mile pipeline between Alberta, Canada, and the Gulf Coast of Texas — but also pushed unsuccessfully last month for language in the highway bill that would have greenlighted the project over the administration’s objections.
For many groups, the question of whether to ship hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude from an area in Alberta known as the oil sands, or tar sands, is a national question of either economics or the environment. Advocates say it will secure a reliable energy supply for the United States and spur short-term construction jobs — TransCanada estimates it will directly generate between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs two years in a row. Foes say that extracting energy-intense bitumen and burning it will accelerate climate change to dangerous levels by emitting a massive amount of carbon into the atmosphere and that a spill along the route could damage sensitive habitat.
But in the regions the pipeline would pass through, local concerns are more powerful. Many Nebraskans — including the state’s governor, Republican Dave Heineman — raised concerns last year that the initial route could threaten the state’s Ogallala aquifer, a critical drinking-water source, with a potential spill. Obama first delayed the permit in November and then rejected itin January in the face of a congressionally mandated Feb. 21 deadline.
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