QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the proposed Congressional action requiring the State Department to make a determination on the Keystone pipeline within 60 days of enactment of the House version of the payroll tax cut bill?
ANSWER: It is the President’s prerogative to lead and manage the foreign policy of the United States, and in the case of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project, our relations with Canada. This historical prerogative encompasses the President’s long-established authority to supervise the permitting process for transboundary pipelines.
The President has delegated his authority to supervise this permitting process, by executive order, to the Department of the State. This process for determining whether to issue permits for transborder pipelines has been in place for more than 40 years.
In determining whether a permit is in the national interest, this process requires consideration of a myriad of factors, including environmental and safety issues, energy security, economic impact, and foreign policy, as well as consultation with at least 8 federal agencies and inputs from the public and stakeholders - including Congress.
The State Department has led a rigorous, thorough, and transparent process that must run its course to obtain the necessary information to make an informed decision on behalf of the national interest. Should Congress impose an arbitrary deadline for the permit decision, its actions would not only compromise the process, it would prohibit the Department from acting consistently with National Environmental Policy Act requirements by not allowing sufficient time for the development of this information. In the absence of properly completing the process, the Department would be unable to make a determination to issue a permit for this project.
The State Department is currently in the process of obtaining additional information regarding alternate routes that avoid the Sand Hills in Nebraska. Based on preliminary consultations with the State of Nebraska and the permit applicant, the Department believes the review process could be completed in time for a decision to be made in first quarter 2013.