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Rehberg pushes to take pipeline decision from Obama

Montana's Rep. Dennis Rehberg is again pushing to force allowing a Canadian company to build an oil pipeline through Montana.

Rehberg and 46 other representatives — all but one Republican — Monday cosponsored a bill by Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., that removes the requirement that President Barack Obama approve a permit before TransCanada Corp. begins construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the South Dakota-Nebraska border.

"The Obama Administration and its environmental obstructionist allies are doing everything they can to block jobs that will also lower energy prices, " Rehberg said in a press release Wednesday. "There's just no reason to re-examine the portions that were already reviewed and approved. It defies common sense. It's time to stop playing political games with this popular project. "

If passed by the House, the Democratic-controlled Senate will have to pass the bill, which then must be signed into law by Obama before it becomes effective.

Because the pipeline crosses the U. S.-Canadian border, it must be approved by the U. S. Department of State before construction can begin.

The pipeline, intended to transport oil sand from the harvesting operations in northeastern Alberta to Texas, has been a political hot potato.

Advocates argue that the pipeline will reduce fuel prices in the United States while creating thousands of jobs in its construction.

Opponents say the pipeline will create immense environmental hazards.

All members of Montana's congressional delegation and its governor have been in support of the project.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer is a strong advocate of the pipeline, also pushing a requirement that would create a Montana onramp to transport oil from the state including from the Bakken formation to refineries. That onramp was included in the plans.

Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester — whom Rehberg is challenging in this year's Senate election — also have advocated for the construction of the pipeline.

The two issued a press release July 18 saying they had sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to expedite approving TransCanada's latest permit application.

"We're already well past due for getting construction crews on the ground, and we can't waste any more time redoing bureaucratic studies that were completed a year ago, " Baucus said in the release.

"If we do it right, building the Montana portion of the Keystone pipeline means more Montana jobs and greater energy security for Montana consumers, " Tester added in the release. "That's why the State Department needs to approve the permit so we can build a more responsible energy future that creates jobs now. "

The issue reached new political highs last year while TransCanada's original permit application still was being reviewed by the State Department.

The original proposal came under close scrutiny because it routed the line through Nebraska's Sand Hills, a highly porous region that lies over the Ogallala aquifer that supplies fresh water in eight states.

When the State Department announced it would not be able to make a decision on the permit until 2013 — after this year's presidential election — Rehberg added a provision, requiring the president to make a decision on the Keystone permit within 60 days, to a bill that extended a payroll tax cut.

Just days later, Baucus, with help from Tester, inserted the same proposal in the Senate version of the bill.

After Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, reversed himself — first saying the House would not pass the Senate version and called for a conference committee to revise differences in the House and Senate versions, a proposal Rehberg voted for, then calling for an up-or-down vote while most members of Congress were home on the Christmas break — a rewrite of the Senate version passed.

In January, Obama rejected the Keystone proposal, saying the 60-day deadline did not allow enough time to review the proposal and its potential environmental impacts. He invited TransCanada to reapply, which it did in May.

TransCanada announced in February it would push forward with the southern leg of the project separately from the full project, which avoids the need for a State Department permit, as that section does not cross an international border.

Obama said in March that he supported the completion of that part of the pipeline, from petroleum storage facilities near Cushing, Neb., to Texas.

Rehberg, Baucus and Tester all have pushed to expedite the start of construction of the northern leg, which would run from Alberta through Montana en route to Cushing.


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