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Congressman Peter DeFazio

Representing the 4th District of OREGON

Top Democrats Demand Boehner Follow Rules of the House for Controversial Keystone Vote

Dec 31, 2014
Press Release

Washington, DC- Three leading House Democratic lawmakers called on Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to use regular order for consideration of controversial legislation to approve construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. In a letter sent yesterday, Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), ranking members-elect on the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure, Energy and Commerce, and Natural Resources, respectively, urged Boehner not to bypass committee process to force a premature vote on an issue of such magnitude. The three committees have jurisdiction over Keystone XL pipeline legislation.

“It is our understanding that you may schedule the House of Representatives to vote on a bill to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline during the first two weeks of the 114th Congress.  Given the magnitude of this issue, we urge you not to bypass the committee process and regular order for consideration of this controversial legislation. This past November, 61 new Members of Congress were elected by the American people to represent their interests in the House.  These new Members, and in fact all Members of the House, should have the opportunity to consider, debate, and propose their own ideas on this legislation through committee hearings and markups, before it is scheduled for House Floor consideration,” the members write.

Additionally, the members highlight several key issues with the Keystone XL pipeline that should postpone any premature legislative action. The proposed route was declared null and void by the Nebraska District Court in February 2014. If Congress considers legislation in the next few weeks, Members of Congress would be asked to vote for approval without knowledge of the route. 

The members also highlight the need to evaluate potential economic impacts of the pipeline. The letter cites a December 2014 petroleum marketing report issued by the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, which found that crude oil prices in the U.S. are the lowest they have been since 2010.  The significant decrease in the price of gasoline in the United States illustrates the changed circumstances. The letter requests that the House has an opportunity to learn more about these changed circumstances as they weigh the economic costs and benefits of the pipeline.

In addition, the letter asks that new and returning Members of Congress have the ability to debate the short- and long-term effects of approving a project that could reverse the carbon pollution reductions and environmental and safety improvements achieved in the United States.

The letter adds, “Mr. Speaker, a new Congress represents new beginnings.  We urge you to use this opportunity to recommit to the value of thoughtful deliberation.  We urge you not to bypass the committee process and regular order for consideration of this controversial legislation.”

A copy of the letter is below.

 

 

December 30, 2014

 

 

 

 

The Honorable John A. Boehner

Speaker of the House

H-232, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Mr. Speaker:

It is our understanding that you may schedule the House of Representatives to vote on a bill to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline during the first two weeks of the 114th Congress.  Given the magnitude of this issue, we urge you not to bypass the committee process and regular order for consideration of this controversial legislation.

This past November, 61 new Members of Congress were elected by the American people to represent their interests in the House.  These new Members, and in fact all Members of the House, should have the opportunity to consider, debate, and propose their own ideas on this legislation through committee hearings and markups, before it is scheduled for House Floor consideration.  Moreover, the bill should be subject to a rule allowing for an open amendment process on the Floor.  While past congresses have debated legislation to approve the pipeline, this new Congress has not had the opportunity to be a part of the process, a process that the Republican Leadership has vowed to uphold.

Just five months ago, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy published an op-ed in the Washington Post promising, on the first day of his new job, to return to the committee process and regular order.  He stated: “In Congress, committees act as idea factories for policies from both sides, and as majority leader I will commit to the committee process and regular order.”  He added a renewed commitment to work with Members on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation, stating “…a sense of mutual respect is necessary for constructive dialogue.”  We urge you to uphold this commitment.

In addition, we believe the committee process will provide Members with new information that has come to light since Congress previously considered Keystone XL legislation. 

First, the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline remains unclear in the state of Nebraska.  In February 2014, the Nebraska District Court declared that the Nebraska Governor’s Keystone XL pipeline siting decision violated the Nebraska Constitution and, as such, the proposed route was null and void.  The Nebraska Supreme Court is considering this issue on appeal and is expected to issue its decision in the coming weeks.  We hope that we can all agree that Members of Congress deserve to know the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline prior to casting a vote on whether to approve it.

Second, over the past five years, production of crude oil in the United States has skyrocketed.  As a result of this increased production, together with tempered global demand, crude oil prices have fallen precipitously.  According to a December 2014 petroleum marketing report issued by the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, crude oil prices in the U.S. are the lowest they have been since 2010.  The significant decrease in the price of gasoline in the United States illustrates the changed circumstances.  On December 22, AAA announced that gasoline prices declined for a record 88 days straight and 85 cents per gallon in the last year.  Members of Congress should have an opportunity to learn more about these changed circumstances as they weigh the costs and benefits of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Third, expansion of oil sands production in Canada, with or without the Keystone XL pipeline, is now uncertain.  Alternative transportation methods have raised considerable challenges for producers, and a number of pipeline expansion projects have been halted due to significant opposition in the U.S. and Canada.  While the Keystone XL pipeline continues to be the producers’ preferred option for the delivery of oil sands, concerns regarding carbon pollution, impacts on natural resources and land use, and safety remain.  New and returning Members of Congress should have the right to debate the short- and long-term effects of approving a project that could reverse the carbon pollution reductions and environmental and safety improvements that we have worked so hard to achieve in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, a new Congress represents new beginnings.  We urge you to use this opportunity to recommit to the value of thoughtful deliberation.  We urge you not to bypass the committee process and regular order for consideration of this controversial legislation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

PETER A. DEFAZIO                                                                                 FRANK PALLONE, JR.          RAÚL M. GRIJALVA

Ranking Member-Elect                        Ranking Member-Elect                   Ranking Member-Elect

Committee on Transportation              Committee on Energy                     Committee on 

and Infrastructure                                and Commerce                                Natural Resources

 

cc:        The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader

            The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader

            The Honorable Steny H. Hoyer, Democratic Whip

            The Honorable Bill Shuster, Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

            The Honorable Fred Upton, Chairman, Committee on Energy and Commerce

            The Honorable Rob Bishop, Chairman-Elect, Committee on Natural Resources

 

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