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Pipes for the Keystone Pipeline. (MGNonline)

Pipes for the Keystone Pipeline. (MGNonline)

Lawmakers discuss Keystone with LOGA

Last Modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 11:04 AM

By Frank DiCesare / American Press

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she has legislation on the Keystone XL pipeline that she can move through Congress, and that she would like President Obama’s approval well before Election Day.

In an interview with the American Press on Thursday, Landrieu, who is running for a fourth term in the Senate, said she and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., are taking the lead on three pieces of legislation on Keystone that she would like to have the president’s signature on in the next three months.

“I’m going to do everything I can,” Landrieu said. “We’re working on getting a 60-vote threshold now in the Senate. I hope the president will do it; I will suggest that he should. But if he can’t, then Congress will have to push him to that position through resolutions and laws.”

Landrieu’s comments came after her 30-minute speech to members of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, which held its 2014 annual meeting at L’Auberge. LOGA guest speakers also included U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge. All Louisiana lawmakers voiced their support for the oil and gas industry, as Southwest Louisiana prepares for more than $60 billion in plant expansions over the next five years.

Vitter, who is running for governor after two terms in the Senate, told the American Press that Landrieu’s comments on Keystone were “election-year posturing.” Although Vitter did not mention the controversial pipeline in his LOGA speech, he told the Press that while 60 votes in favor of Keystone is possible, a 67-vote margin in the Senate — needed to overturn a veto from the president — “will never happen.”

“We’re not going to get 67 votes in the Harry Reid Senate, and Mary knows it,” Vitter said. “This is about Barack Obama and whether he will ever do the right thing.”

Cassidy, who is running against Landrieu for her Senate seat, told the Press that a bill was recently passed by the House and is now in the Senate that would change the process by which Keystone is approved without involving Obama in the decision making.

“Right now how the process works, the president has to sign off, so it goes through him,” Cassidy said. “We don’t have to make it that way. You could say that if the State Department establishes that Keystone is environmentally sound and does not otherwise violate treaties, then it would be voted on by the Senate and the House without the input of the president.”

Cassidy told LOGA that the carbon footprint of that oil and gas would be less if the product was shipped though a pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries than if it was barged off the ocean to countries with “very lax environmental standards and then shipped back.”

“Clearly the environmental impact is less if we do it here,” he added. “It’s a no-brainer that it should be approved, creating jobs here instead of China.”

Cassidy said there is “a theory” that Landrieu “is in such trouble” that the Democratic leadership will allow Keystone to be built so she can get credit for it and be re-elected.

Landrieu, who was recently appointed head of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told LOGA members that she has been “a strong and vocal supporter” of the Keystone pipeline. She said the project “should have been built years ago.”

“As I conduct my first hearing to move our committee in a much more energy-robust direction, we will be advocating as of Tuesday morning in Washington for the permit for the Keystone pipeline,” Landrieu said. “America can and should be a leading energy power in this world. We in Louisiana understand this. We understand it, along with our friends in Texas.”

Landrieu also took a shot at the left wing. She said an increasing amount of moderate Democrats and Republicans are voicing their support for industry.

“All you hear are the few voices on the Democratic left who just spend all day long bashing industry,” she said. “They don’t know the industry; they don’t have much of the industry in their counties or in their states. All they do is flick a switch, the lights go on and they’re happy. They have no idea where it comes from.”

Vitter devoted most of his speech to tort reform and examples of the federal government’s history of intrusion in the industry sector.

He cited the Environmental Protection Agency as an example of the federal government “getting in the way” of industry. Vitter, a ranking member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said the EPA has tried several times in recent years to link hydraulic fracturing to groundwater contamination. In each instance, Vitter said, the agency failed.

Vitter told LOGA members that the Obama administration has made “generally positive comments” about hydraulic fracturing. “The bad news is in many instances their agencies have acted otherwise, and the EPA is a great example,” he said.

Landrieu, however, said the United States’ policy should be to build gas and oil infrastructure with “the least environmental impact.” She said Washington must also be respectful of the jurisdiction states have over laying pipelines and transmission lines.

“We have to be respectful of the laws of states,” Landrieu said. “We just can’t run roughshod over them.”

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