Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., continued his efforts Wednesday to push along the Keystone XL pipeline project in hopes that it will finally be approved, this time alongside U.S. military veterans.

More than two dozen members of the group Vets4Energy joined Hoeven and other politicians for a press conference in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to drive home the importance of long-delayed pipeline.

Hoeven said it was important to have members of the veterans group attend.

“These are veterans who have been over in Iraq and Afghanistan putting their life on the line fighting for us,” he said in a phone interview following the briefing. “Of course, part of our interest in that part of the world is oil. These folks are saying, ‘Hey, we should produce this energy here at home so that we’re not dependent on countries in the Middle East.’ The situation in Russia, of course, really brings that home as far as national security.”

Gary Doer, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., also participated in the news conference. Don Loren, Vets4Energy’s advisor and the National Veterans Service Organizations liaison and retired Navy Admiral, stood alongside with American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard.

Hoeven, who recently traveled to Ukraine on a Senate mission, said the Keystone XL would stand as an example of progressing North American energy security.

“Seeing how Ukraine and the European Union are dependent on Russia for energy, our delegation saw firsthand the importance of energy security,” Hoeven said. “Projects that boost North American energy production like the Keystone XL pipeline are a key, not only to creating jobs and a dynamic economy but also to keeping our nation and our people safe. The bottom line - energy security is national security.”

Those who oppose the Canada-to-Texas pipeline are largely against the project for environmental concerns related to the tar sands oil it would carry from western Canada.

Though it would primarily handle oil from Canada, a finished Keystone XL pipeline is estimated to have the initial capacity to transport up to 100,000 barrels of Bakken crude from North Dakota and Montana oilfields.

A State Department report issued Jan. 31 said denying the pipeline isn’t likely to slow the pace of Canadian oil sands development, though it did note that the Canadian crudes are generally more greenhouse gas-intensive than other heavy crudes they would replace in U.S. refineries.

Hoeven and other supporters have long highlighted the economic impact of the $5.4 billion project. The State Department estimates it would support 42,100 jobs during construction and about 50 jobs once the pipeline is operating. Obama has questioned the estimate in published reports.

“Yesterday, I had the privilege to meet the Nebraska Korean War Honor Flight who fought for three years on the Korean Peninsula,” Terry said in a statement. “In (World War II), we conquered Nazi Germany in a little over four years. But here we are, five years after the permits have been filed to build the Keystone XL pipeline and we’re still waiting. Our veterans have shown true leadership in accomplishing greater things in less time. After over five years, it’s time to build the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The energy industry has been leading the way in job creation in the U.S. since the economic downturn late last decade, Hoeven added.

“To develop our energy projects, we need the infrastructure,” Hoeven said. “That includes pipelines, more rail capacity and more roads, which are all big-time job generators. This is about jobs and national security, and some great veterans stood up with us today and spoke about this. I think that really helps to strengthen the already broad support for the Keystone XL project.”

Doer pointed to a State Department response that the pipeline would be “safer and produce less (greenhouse gases) than alternative modes of transportation,” a talking point that Keystone XL supporters have attempted to drive home.

“Vets4Energy is an organization of volunteer veterans who understand that our nation’s security is predicated on sound energy policy,” Loren said. “We’re here in Washington to work with our elected officials to make sure our country is leveraging all of its energy resources to help keep our country safe and ensure that our military men and women have productive careers when they leave the service.”