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Montana's U.S. lawmakers decry Obama decision on pipeline

Republicans and Democrats both tried to force President Barack Obama's hand on an oil pipeline planned to run through Montana, and succeeded. Obama Wednesday denied a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Congress had tied to an extension of payroll tax reductions and unemployment insurance a requirement that a decision on the permit for the pipeline be made within 60 days.

Obama said in a statement that the denial was not a judgement of the merits of the pipeline, but was due to the arbitrary deadline "insisted on by Congressional (sic) Republicans. "

Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., sponsored legislation in the House to require action on the permit.

Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Montana Democrats, worked on inserting the language in the Senate bill that eventually passed and required Obama's decision.

The company proposing to build the pipeline to transport petroleum from the oil sands in northeastern Alberta to Texas, TransCanada Corp., said after Obama announced the permit would be denied that it will apply again.

The pipeline issue came to a head last fall when environmental concerns were raised about the planned route through Nebraska, where it would have passed through an area that supplies water to several states.

Obama said he would delay a decision on the pipeline until 2013 — which would come after the presidential election.

Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, Montana Democrats, and Rep. Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican who is challenging Tester in the 2012 Senate race, all decried Obama's denial of the permit.

"This is not about politics, this is about jobs, and that's something everyone should support, " Baucus said this morning. "After three years of analysis, there is absolutely no reason we cannot start putting Montanans to work on the Keystone XL pipeline right away, and I won't stop fighting until that happens. "

Rehberg took a different stance.

"Today's shameful decision by President Obama to put his re-election ahead of thousands of jobs for American families shows just how much this administration and its allies have bought into the radical anti-job agenda of environmental extremists like the League of Conservation Voters, " he said in a release Wednesday. "President Obama had an opportunity to put politics aside and embrace bipartisanship to create jobs. He could have allowed the private sector to create thousands of jobs, funded by private investment.

"Instead, President Obama found an excuse to erect yet another government road block to economic recovery, " Rehberg said.

Rehberg said he will continue to push to project.

Tester also issued a statement Wednesday.

"I am disappointed in the president's decision. Just as I have supported Montana's renewable energy jobs, I have long supported responsibly building this pipeline with the highest safety standards and with respect for private property rights, " Tester said. "Oil, coal, natural gas, wind, geothermal and biofuels all provide good jobs in Montana. I will continue to champion Montana's role in securing America's energy future. "

But a local legislator took the opposite view.

State Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, said the project needs more time for review and planning.

"I want to praise President Barack Obama for his decision and standing with landowners by rejecting the Keystone pipeline XL, " Windy Boy said.

He said additional environmental impact statements, including creating an emergency response plan, a study of corrosiveness of tar sands oil and assurances the line would be as secure in rural areas as in urban areas, need to be completed.

Windy Boy added that he hopes Native American concerns about historic sites along the pipeline corridor are addressed.


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