Republicans aim to take Keystone decision out of Obama’s hands

House Republicans have released a plan to fast-track the long delayed Keystone XL pipeline that would take the final decision out of the president’s hands.

“It’s been over four years and thousands of pages of environmental reviews. The experts have weighed in. Now is the time to build the Keystone Pipeline,” said Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry, author of the draft legislation.

The draft bill would mean that the pipeline would not need a presidential permit and that the final environmental review done by the State Department in 2011 would satisfy all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The bill would also limit the legal challenges that could be brought against the pipeline.

Pipeline supporters argue that Keystone XL will help the U.S. become more energy independent and create jobs.

“Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is long overdue. This project creates thousands of high-paying, high-skilled jobs, and puts America on a long-term path to energy independence,” said Democrats Utah Rep. Jim Matheson and Georgia Rep. John Barrow, who co-authored the  bill with Terry.

The State Department’s recent report found that the pipeline would not have significant negative effects on the environment and would not have a huge impact on climate change, which angered environmental groups.

“The State Department is trying to duck the significant climate implications of this project, in direct contradiction to President Obama’s calls for climate action to protect our future,” said Danielle Droitsch, Natural Resources Defense Council Canada project director. “As the nation grapples with the climate hole we are stuck in, we must stop digging. Keystone XL is a steam shovel.”

Environmentalists argue that Keystone could harm water supplies and contribute to climate change.

However, the State Department report also said that U.S. energy needs could be met even without the Keystone XL pipeline from the increased use of rail transportation of oil and other pipelines.

President Obama will likely not make a decision on the pipeline’s permit application until the middle of summer.

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