Senate Republicans urge Biden not to scrap pipeline permit

Five Senate Republicans are calling on President-elect Joe Biden to allow construction on the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the United States to proceed.

Their plea was likely too late, with Biden planning to issue an executive order as soon as this afternoon, following his inauguration, that would halt the controversial project.

Still, the lawmakers’ letter, sent yesterday, put down an important marker as the GOP seeks to assert itself on energy policy in a narrowly divided government as a new administration is set to come in.

“Mr. President-elect, during the campaign you challenged America to ‘Build Back Better’ by investing in new infrastructure and energy technologies, creating high-paying blue-collar jobs, and preparing for the energy mix of the future,” wrote Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, along with Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

“With these and other commitments,” the senators argued, “Keystone XL meets that important test. We have to come together to find a way forward, to keep people working, while also creating a new standard for American energy infrastructure.”

The senators all hail from states that would see economic benefits from the pipeline, though critics say the environmental costs outweigh any financial advantages.

At Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken’s confirmation hearing Monday, Barrasso, the incoming ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, took the opportunity to prod Blinken on the plan to revoke permits for the pipeline.

Barrasso specifically pointed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pleas this week to continue the project.

“It creates jobs; it helps grow the economy; it improves our nation’s energy security,” Barrasso said during Blinken’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (see related story).

“I think taking any action to cancel it would eliminate jobs for thousands of Americans and undermine economic stability for many,” said Barrasso.

Blinken, however, indicated he would leave the decision on Keystone XL to Biden. “What I can say with regard to the State Department, and my potential role at the State Department, is anything going forward, we would address with absolute objectivity and professionalism to make sure that any proposed permit or agreement that comes before us advances the national interest,” Blinken said.