Unions slam Obama over Keystone XL delay

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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While environmentalists might be pleased with the Obama administration’s decision to further delay approval of the Keystone XL pipeline until after the elections, unions are not.

“This is once again politics at its worst,” said Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “In another gutless move, the administration is delaying a finding on whether the pipeline is in the national interest based on months-old litigation in Nebraska regarding a state level challenge to a state process — and which has nothing to with the national interest.”

Labor unions have generally supported building the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Supporters argue the project would create thousands of jobs — jobs unions sorely need.

In late February, Obama promised a decision on Keystone “in a couple months” and the State Department’s final review of the project was supposed to end in May. But the Obama administration announced another indefinite delay last week based on a North Dakota court decision slightly altering the pipeline’s route. The announcement angered pipeline supporters.

“It’s not the oil that’s dirty, it’s the politics,” O’Sullivan said. “Once again, the administration is making a political calculation instead of doing what is right for the country. This certainly is no example of profiles in courage. It’s clear the administration needs to grow a set of antlers, or perhaps take a lesson from Popeye and eat some spinach.”

The delay has also been seen as a way to appease billionaire liberal donor Tom Steyer, who has promised to raise $100 million to make global warming a top issue in the 2014 elections. Steyer is a former hedge fund manager and major Obama donor. He has bankrolled much of the Keystone XL opposition and was a major force for campaign cash in the 2013 election season.

“This is rotten eggs for TransCanada and good news on Good Friday for those who oppose Keystone as not being in our nation’s best interest,” Steyer said in a statement on Friday. “The State Department has the opportunity to address the inherent flaws in its past work by boiling this down to the two issues that impact our national interest.”

Energy-state Democrats have been pushing the Obama administration to approve the pipeline, but the administration has done little to fast-track the process. Keystone has been seen as a political tool for the Obama administration — approval would hurt their environmental fundraising base, but help Democrats in oil and gas states.

Indecision on the pipeline will keep energy state Democrats vulnerable to challengers come November. Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Warner of Virginia all face tough re-elections this fall and have pushed the Obama administration to approve Keystone, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Landrieu has been aggressively pushing energy security issues, including Keystone’s approval, in the run-up to the fall elections. She recently came to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where she has continued to push energy issues.

With Keystone’s fate still in limbo, Landrieu could be vulnerable on the issue despite her support for oil and gas. The Washington Free Beacon notes that Republicans are using Keystone’s delay to show that Landrieu has been ineffective in Congress.

“Landrieu has been telling anyone who will listen how influential she is after being named chairman of the energy committee, but it turns out that Landrieu isn’t influential at all,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a statement statement on Monday.

“This is another low blow to the working men and women of our country for whom the Keystone XL Pipeline is a lifeline to good jobs and energy security,” O’Sullivan said.

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