A former Democratic senator who supports the controversial Keystone Pipeline XL project says it will eventually be approved by the Obama administration.
Byron Dorgan, a former senator from North Dakota who served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, now works for the K Street firm Arent Fox. Dorgan said during an American Petroleum Institute forum on energy politics and the 2012 presidential election Tuesday that while the decision is rife with politics, the pipeline will eventually win approval.
"I assume it's going to be debated substantially on the campaign trail," he said. "[But] at the end of the day, this country will have a Keystone Pipeline."
President Obama vetoed legislation crafted by House Republicans earlier this year that would have forced his administration to expedite approval of the proposal, which would grant permission for the pipeline designed to carry crude oil extracted from Canadian oil sands to gulf coast refineries. Environmental groups staged protests at the White House and in Nebraska over concerns about the exact path the pipeline would take. As a result, the administration has until 2013 to make their final decision.
But Republicans have cast the delay as an example of Obama sacrificing jobs and policies that would help the economy for the sake of liberal causes, in this case, the environment.
"There's a whole issue about whether or not oil sand production should ever find the way to America, but that's not what's at issue with Keystone on the legal requirements," said Jim Connaughton, executive vice president and senior policy adviser for Exelon, a major energy company. "I mean, there's the politics swarming it … with key constituencies just wanting to block it at any cost."
Dorgan admitted politics is leading the way on the issue, but cast blame on both sides.
"The Republicans put a piece in a bill that had nothing to do with energy that suggested the administration had to act at a time when they could not possibly act," he said. "We also understand the president is reluctant to move forward because he has some supporters that are concerned about it. I think he's going to make a decision later rather than sooner. You can judge what I mean by that."
Many in the room chuckled at Dorgan's statement, which clearly implied Obama's approval is expected after the election when he can afford to alienate pro-environment supporters.
When Connaughton lamented that politics should not have a role in the decision, Dorgan dismissed him.
"You just cannot say on Keystone 'politics aside,'" he said. "You just can't say that because there is a barrelful of politics on both sides of this."
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Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.