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Nebraska Backs Pipeline; Obama Back in Hot Seat

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Heineman on Tuesday signed onto the segment of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run through Nebraska, a decision welcomed by the oil and gas industry, which urged Obama to follow suit.

GOP Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska also applauded the news. “This important project will create jobs and increase our energy supply,” he said in a written statement. “With Governor Heineman’s approval now conveyed to President Obama, it is time to give it the final green light.”

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said Tuesday that his panel is likely to take up new legislation this year aimed at forcing approval of the project. And Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said the state’s approval of the route removes the last excuse for Obama to delay a final decision.

“I recognize all the political pressure the president faces, but with our energy security at stake and many jobs in limbo, he should find a way to say yes,” Boehner said.

But environmentalists say new research shows that the life-cycle emissions from tar sands production are more carbon-intensive than previously thought. They argue that a tar sands industry boom is entirely dependent upon the pipeline’s construction — all the more reason for the president to reject the most recent application, environmental groups say.

The completion of the State Department’s review will trigger a comment period and consultation with other federal agencies before a final decision, probably leaving management of the final months of the process to Clinton’s expected successor, Sen. John Kerry. The Massachusetts Democrat spearheaded efforts in the 111th Congress to pass legislation that would cap carbon emissions and is a prominent supporter of international steps to combat climate change. The State Department is involved because the project would cross international boundaries.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., told reporters Tuesday that approval of the pipeline would run counter to efforts to combat climate change. “I think it would be a terrible message,” he said.

Geof Koss contributed to this report.

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