WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, spoke on the Senate floor Thursday morning about how a clear and open debate about the Keystone XL Pipeline would make clear that the project ought to move forward.
Text of Hatch’s speech as prepared:
Mr. President, I rise today to join my colleagues—both Democrat and Republican—to urge the swift passage of a bill in the Senate that would create jobs, strengthen our economy, and put more money in Americans’ pocketbooks: the bipartisan Hoeven-Manchin bill to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline.
I want to address the Keystone pipeline project and why it’s important, but I first want to focus on how the Keystone debate reflects on the state of the Senate and on good governance more broadly. After all, this project is now in its sixth year of limbo, waiting for a single permit to be issued. This debate has gone on longer than an entire term of a United States Senator.
My colleague from Florida, Senator Rubio, recently commented that the American public no longer has confidence that the federal government works anymore. He’s right, and the American people are justified in their skepticism. This project is a perfect example of why.
A debate over the merits of and drawbacks to the pipeline—a debate that centers upon sound science and agreed-upon ground rules is long overdue. Such a debate represents the best traditions of the Senate: a meeting of minds where respect and tolerance shape the contours of debate. And such a debate is particularly valuable because a common-sense regulatory process is integral to a sound economy and the rule of law.
Time and again, President Obama has suggested that an issue such as this is too important to get bogged down in politics, and that we should trust in the integrity of the regulatory process. To this I have two replies.
First, this is exactly the sort of debate that we should be having in the Senate. This is the body that is supposed to debate the important issues of the day. And when a project as important as this is stalled without meaningful justification for so long, our involvement is even more important. In this case, we have sought to legislate according to the best traditions of this body, reaching across the aisle and taking all voices into account.
Second, curtailing debate on this issue has only had the result of turning the construction of what should be an common-sense infrastructure project into an abstraction, a political symbol that has little to do with the actual proposal under consideration. Without discussion of facts and evidence in this chamber—all of which I believe counsel in favor of approving the project—the opposition has been able to obfuscate the facts and avoid having to defend their position. The Senate is the place where we can best accomplish good policymaking, not political grandstanding, on an issue of such importance.
I was encouraged by yesterday’s colloquy on the resolution to allow the Keystone pipeline to move forward, because it represents a return to the way we should talk about serious issues—that is, through actual debate. But that colloquy and the work we are doing today has been met with further resistance from the White House. Even before we consider any number of amendments from both sides of the aisle, the President has already threatened to veto our legislation calling for pipeline construction to move forward. This is an unfortunate way for the President to begin work with this new Congress.
Our country and North American energy security will greatly benefit from this project. It improves efficiency and energy infrastructure and takes pressure off of moving oil by rail. It will increase our GDP by approximately $3.4 billion annually. And the State Department, which has provided clearheaded analysis of the benefits of this project, has found that Keystone will support roughly 42,000 jobs during the construction phase alone. It will provide refineries with up to 830,000 barrels a day of North American oil.
The Keystone pipeline is an environmentally sound way to transport this oil. In fact, the State Department’s extensive Environmental Impact Statement concluded that building the pipeline would actually be better for the environment than not. We have to be clear here: this oil is going to go to market no matter what—by truck or rail if not by pipeline. Building this pipeline takes this oil off of the tracks, off of the roads, and transports it in a way that is safer, more efficient, more environmentally sound, and better for creating good paying American jobs.
At the end of the day, the Keystone pipeline and so many other bureaucratic failures demonstrate that the regulatory process is broken. It should not take years and years navigating the federal bureaucracy only to have the government decide not to make a decision. Here in this new Congress, we are focused on helping create jobs and getting our economy back on the right track, which is why regulatory reform will be a key art of our agenda over the next two years. I hope the President will change his mind and join us not only in approving this important project, but also in preventing similar abuses from occurring in the future.