January 11, 2015

Ranking Member DeFazio's Statement on H.R. 3, The Keystone XL Pipeline Act

Statement of
The Honorable Peter DeFazio
H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act

January 9, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the bill.Here we go again.  For the tenth time in the last four years, we will vote on short-circuiting the review process for the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that is owned and operated by a foreign entity, which will ship tar sands across the Canadian border more than 1,900 miles through the United States.

Not only is the Republican Leadership bypassing Federal agency review, they are completely shutting out the congressional process, disregarding a commitment they made just five months ago to Members of the House and the American people.

This past November, 61 new Members of Congress were elected by the American people to represent their interests in the House.  These new Members, and in fact all Members of the House, should have the opportunity to thoughtfully consider, debate, and propose their own ideas on this legislation through committee hearings and markups.  While past congresses have debated this legislation, nine times in fact, this new Congress has not had the opportunity to be a part of the process, a process that the Republican Leadership has vowed to uphold.

Just five months ago, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised to return to the committee process and regular order in the 114th Congress, stating that “committees act as idea factories for policies” and that “a sense of mutual respect [on both sides of the aisle] is necessary for constructive dialogue.”

Where is the constructive dialogue here?

I am the Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure which has primary jurisdiction over the Keystone XL pipeline.  We have not had one hearing on Keystone XL in the last four years.  We had one markup of a completely different piece of legislation that went nowhere, but the primary committee of jurisdiction has not reviewed this bill.

I would ask the Republican Leadership, what happened to your commitment?

Like the last Keystone bill we considered, this bill circumvents the President’s authority to review and approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and gives TransCanada’s application an immediate seal of approval.

It deems any revision to the pipeline route in Nebraska approved, even though the Nebraska Supreme Court has not even issued a decision on the constitutionality of a 2012 law that gave the Nebraska governor and state environmental regulators the authority to approve oil pipeline routes.

Last year, the Nebraska District Court declared that law unconstitutional and stated that the Governor had no right to circumvent the State’s permitting process.  If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s decision, TransCanada will have to go through a new state permitting process which would be superfluous if this legislation is enacted.

I had hoped that we could all agree that Members of Congress deserve to know the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline prior to being asked to cast a vote on whether to approve it.

The bill goes one step further and deems the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement as having “fully satisfied” all laws and environmental requirements, completely disregarding the more than 2.5 million public comments that were filed, which the State Department is currently evaluating. 

Apparently, the Republican Leadership does not care what 2.5 million Americans think about the Keystone XL pipeline; they just care about what one foreign corporation wants.

And then there is the issue of eminent domain.  A provision at the end of this bill, which no one here is talking about, essentially says:  “Don’t worry, TransCanada – nothing in this bill alters your right to seize the land of U.S. citizens.”

Time and again, Members on the other side of the aisle have raised concerns, rightfully so, about the taking of private property.  Well, that is exactly what TransCanada is doing with this pipeline.

TransCanada claims that it has had to use eminent domain with only two percent of landowners.  Tell that to the hundreds of ranchers and farmers throughout Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Texas, who are up in arms about TransCanada’s efforts to seize their land.  Why is the Republican Leadership supporting, in fact promoting, the efforts of a foreign corporation to seize private property from U.S. citizens?

Adding further insult, this bill gives the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of any legal challenge to a Federal agency action regarding the pipeline.  If you are a landowner in Nebraska and you want to challenge some action related to the pipeline, you have to hire an attorney, travel to D.C., pay for hotels and related costs, just to have your case heard. Talk about circumventing the judicial process and the rights of the American people, all for Big Oil.

The fact is this legislation is going to do nothing for the American people. Canadians are going to see further destruction of boreal forests and water resources while TransCanada and Canadian oil producers laugh all the way to the bank. TransCanada’s own consultants estimated its annual revenue would increase by $2 billion to $4 billion if this pipeline is approved.

If that were not enough, this same company will be exempt from the excise tax that all other crude oil and pipeline companies are required to pay to help finance a Trust Fund to help cover the costs of cleaning up oil spills, which inevitably occur (including TransCanada spills).

To recap: Under this legislation, TransCanada gets the profits; they pay nothing into the spill recovery Trust Fund; the American people get the bill if there’s a spill; and the rights of individual Americans to access the legal system are limited – all to benefit a foreign company.

Welcome, to the new Republican Congress, America.

I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing the bill.

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