Today, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) voted against, H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, legislation that would mandate federal approval of all construction and operation permits for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline regardless of whether the pipeline meets the requirements of the law and without consideration for its long-term environmental impact. Esty offered an amendment to remove a loophole in the bill that would take the unprecedented step of requiring approval of all permit requests by TransCanda, a foreign company, for the future operation and maintenance of the project for the multi-decade lifespan of the pipeline.
"We have to be extremely careful, and apply proper oversight, whenever our environment and public health are at stake, but this bill does just the opposite," Esty said. "This bill would grant a foreign company mandated approval on construction permits with no regard for the requirements of the law or for the environmental impact. Not only would this dangerous mandate cover construction of the pipeline, it would take the unprecedented step of approving all permits for the future operation and maintenance of the project for all time. That's completely unacceptable, unwarranted, and reckless.
"Ultimately, tar sands oil is not a solution to our country's energy needs. We need to be focusing on investments in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency to boost our economy and put our country on a sustainable path for the long-term. I will continue to stand up for the environment and advocate for solutions that move us towards a clean-energy future."
The Northern Route Approval Act would mandate that federal agencies approve TransCanada's permit requests for the project within 90 days of application or the permits would be deemed approved. The bill goes even further than earlier proposals in Congress by requiring permit approval not only for the construction of the project, but also for all future operation and maintenance of the pipeline in perpetuity. This permanent approval is unprecedented in the history of U.S. pipelines.
Esty's amendment would have removed the new loophole from the bill granting TransCanada mandated approval for all future maintenance and operation requests on the pipeline. The amendment was one of ten made in order for debate in front of the full House, out of twenty-five that were offered.
Esty offered a similar amendment last week when the legislation came before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on which she serves.