The U.S. House of Representatives, including all four members of the state’s House delegation, voted Friday to approve a pipeline project that supporters say will create jobs while opponents have argued environmental concerns.
Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, each voted yes in the 266-153 vote about midday Friday.
All four congressmen said the project, which will bring oil from Canada and the upper Midwest to shipping in the Gulf of Mexico, has more positives than negatives.
“Despite the President’s vow to veto the bipartisan Keystone Pipeline Act, today the House decided instead to proceed with the support of 266 members of Congress,” Crawford, who serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with jurisdiction on the issue, said. “With the Nebraska Supreme Court removing a longstanding obstacle to the route of the pipe, tens of thousands of jobs are now on the line.”
Hill, who is in his first term, said the project will help the state’s economy. His district is home to Welspun Pipes, which makes the massive pipeline products.
“I am honored to have co-sponsored this bill to complete the Keystone XL pipeline and help secure America’s energy independence,” Hill said. “This morning, the Nebraska Supreme Court approved the pathway to the pipeline, leaving the President with no more excuses to deny completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. This project already provided jobs for more than 600 Arkansans, and completion of the pipeline would provide thousands more jobs for hardworking Americans. It has been over six years since the application to build the pipeline was first submitted, and today’s bipartisan vote marks the tenth time the House has voted to approve the completion of the pipeline. It is time for the President to approve this project to provide jobs and energy for America.”
Earlier on Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court voted to throw out the lawsuit saying the plaintiffs in the case did not have standing.
According to published reports, the Nebraska lawsuit was one of the reasons for opposition by President Obama. The president has said he will veto the legislation if and when it reaches his desk.
However, Westerman said in a statement Friday he believes the project must be done.
“It is time to build this pipeline, put our nation on the path of energy independence and create thousands of good paying job in the process. In Arkansas, our very own Welspun Tubular has already produced 350 miles of pipe for the project, pipe that is stacked up like cord wood, collecting rust while the President drags his feet and refuses to put Americans to work,” Westerman said. “The Keystone pipeline is a first step in moving the United States in the right direction on energy and its construction permit should have been issued years ago. I hope the President backs down from his veto threat and stands with his own Secretary of State, John Kerry, who approved the final environmental impact statement one year ago.”
Womack said he believes a lack of a decision by Obama has left the nation in trouble.
“Over six years have passed since the Keystone XL pipeline application was first submitted to the U.S. Department of State, and all the while, instead of approving its construction, President Obama has supported an energy agenda counterproductive to American success.
“Throughout the 112th and 113th Congresses, my fellow House Members and I have fought endless battles to overcome these administration-instituted delays. Now, at the start of the 114th Congress, I’m hopeful that with the aid of the new Republican-led Senate, we’ll pass this legislation and give the President no choice but to finally free the commonsense, shovel-ready Keystone XL pipeline from years of Democratic roadblocks.”
The Senate is expected to begin debating the bill on Monday.
One of the opponents to the project, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said this week he considers the bill “political Kabuki theater.”
“With gas prices falling, and domestic oil supplies rising, one has to wonder why Congressional Republicans would use their first chance to prove they can get things done on a Canadian export pipeline that is dead before it ever even gets a vote. The American people are expecting jobs that last and an energy policy that moves America forward, not giveaways to big oil that send our resources to foreign countries and worsen climate change.
“I will continue to push for my ‘keep the oil here’ amendment that calls the oil industry’s bluff that Keystone will do anything for our energy independence by requiring that any oil that is transported through Keystone pipeline stays in America for consumers and businesses.
“Americans should not assume all of the environmental risk, including to our climate, only to see some of the dirtiest oil on the planet shipped through the United States to China and other foreign markets. And even if my amendment passes, President Obama should still veto this bill and I am happy that he has indicated he would do so,” Markey said.