House Republicans unveiled a $4.6 trillion budget proposal Tuesday, a key part of which would require approval of TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Construction of the pipeline, which would shuttle crude oil from Alberta's oil sands region to the Gulf Coast, has been held up for more than four years amid environmental concerns. But in a preview of the budget released Monday night, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) underscored the pipeline's importance in ensuring affordable energy for consumers and shaving down the country's ballooning $16 trillion debt.
Here's an excerpt of Ryan's Wall Street Journal Op-Ed giving an overview of the budget's key points:
"America has the world's largest natural-gas, oil and coal reserves—enough natural gas to meet the country's needs for 90 years. Yet the administration is buying up land to prevent further development. Our budget opens these lands to development, so families will have affordable energy. It approves the Keystone XL pipeline, which will create 20,000 direct jobs—and 118,000 indirect jobs. Our budget puts the country on the path to North American energy independence."
The northern leg of the Keystone XL crosses the Canadian-U.S. border, which means the project requires State Department approval. A previous route was rejected over environmental concerns, but a recent draft environmental review from the State Department—and approval from Nebraska's governor on the revised route—has given proponents a confidence boost when it comes to the prospect of the pipelines approval.
Supporters say the 1,179-mile long pipeline is a much-needed job creator and a way to cement the U.S. energy relationship with Canada while reducing U.S. dependence on oil from unfriendly nations.
But critics say the pipeline would be a ticking time bomb that would lead to an expansion of environmentally hazardous oil sands development.
The House budget proposal still faces many obstacles, including opposition from Democrats who are expected to vote on their version of the budget next week. While the two parties aren't likely to find an easy middle ground when it comes to the country's spending plans, there is one thing adding a sense of urgency to discussions: Lawmakers have until April 15 to come up with a budget or else they don't get to pick up their paychecks.
If Congress doesn't meet the April deadline, legislators' salaries are put into escrow until a budget is passed or the current Congress ends.