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Hoeven, Republicans pen letter to Obama urging Keystone XL approval

Republican senators are putting on the full-court press in their fight with the White House for approve of the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union address in Washington, all 45 Republican senators signed a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Friday, encouraging the president to give the green light to the Keystone XL project.

The effort was headed up by Sen. John Hoeven, a staunch advocate for completion of the controversial pipeline. The North Dakota Republican said Friday his belief that the time for a thumb’s up or down on the project is overdue.

“It’s an effort to put pressure on the president to make a decision and to do what he said he’d do,” Hoeven said. “He met with our Republican caucus in the Senate on March 14 and we asked him when he was going to make a decision on Keystone. He said that would happen by the end of the year. Well, the end of the year has come and gone, and he still hasn’t made a decision.”

Because the 1,700-mile pipeline would cross an international border with Canada, the project needs State Department approval, which is its final hurdle to overcome. The Republican senators argue that the pipeline will provide in the neighborhood of 40,000 jobs in the U.S. and enhance the nation’s options when it comes to oil logistics, which have been under a microscope in North Dakota and beyond following last month’s train derailment in Casselton.

Hoeven said he would welcome Obama spending time talking about the Keystone XL during Tuesday’s address.

“I don’t know if he will, but he should,” Hoeven said. “He’s going to talk about job creation, he’ll likely talk about energy, and here’s a perfect candidate to create jobs and produce hundreds of millions to help reduce the deficit. It would also help America with its energy independence so we can tell the Middle East that we don’t need their oil.”

In the final paragraph of the one-page letter, the senators emphasized “overwhelming public support” for the Keystone XL project and ask that Obama “tell us when we can expect a decision.” During a Friday editorial board meeting at The Dickinson Press, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., reiterated her support for the Keystone XL and said the pipeline project figures greatly in the future of the country’s stance on fossil fuel development.

“The Keystone XL pipeline has gotten caught up in a fight over the oil sands development up in Alberta,” Heitkamp said. “That’s what it’s about. The opposition to the Keystone XL is about trying to control the development of fossil fuels. If that works, they’re not going to stop there. We’ve been trying to get the administration to make a decision. The president has had more time to decide on the Keystone XL than it took for us to fight World War II.”

Hoeven said the energy will be produced no matter what, so it only makes sense to continue to add infrastructure.

“We’ve had incidents with rail,” Hoeven said. “We’re producing more energy and we’re going to produce more energy and more crude. We need the infrastructure to do that and that means pipelines, as well as rail and truck. Clearly, the pressure is ramping up on (Obama) to do what the American people want him to do.”

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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