Sen. John Kerry made it clear Thursday that he will play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline if he is confirmed as secretary of state.
“I’ll make the appropriate judgments about it,” he said, referring to the State Department’s ongoing review of the 1,200-mile tar sands oil pipeline. “There are specific standards that have to be met with respect to that review, and I’m going to review those standards and make sure they’re complete.”
Kerry made his remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on his nomination for the post. He was responding to a question from Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and longtime supporter of environmental causes, who asked how Kerry would ensure that the Keystone XL decision “takes into consideration the potential impacts of the pipeline on water and air quality and mitigates any increases in the carbon pollution issue.”
In his opening statement to the committee, Kerry also described climate change as one of the “life threatening issues” that defines American foreign policy.
The pipeline’s opponents, who argue that building the Keystone XL would accelerate global warming, were encouraged by Kerry’s words.
Kerry’s remarks show that “he understands…that he’s going to be relied upon to bring his perspective and his deep knowledge of the climate crisis to bear on this issue,” said Peter LaFontaine, an energy policy advocate at the National Wildlife Federation in Washington, D.C.
Kerry is one of the nation’s most vocal proponents of climate action. He co-authored comprehensive climate legislation that died in 2010 and has long pushed for American leadership in global climate treaty talks. Speaking about the State Department's Keystone XL review in 2011, Kerry told reporters that he would "do my best to leave no question unanswered, including every possible economic and environmental consideration, before a final decision is made."
The five-term Massachusetts Democrat has served on the foreign relations committee for 28 years and has chaired it for the last four. He is expected to breeze through the confirmation process, and a vote on his nomination could come as early as next week.
While it’s President Barack Obama—not Kerry—who will have the final say on Keystone XL, “having Kerry in this role is a good sign,” LaFontaine said. “Obviously there are other people in the president’s ear on this. It’s great to have Kerry at the table, too.”
Still, LaFontaine noted that Kerry’s comments didn't indicate which way the senator might go on the pipeline, and he said Kerry had offered only a “milquetoast statement” on the issue. “He was pretty careful not to say anything except that he’s aware that he has a role to play in the process.”
Kerry’s hearing came as the pipeline’s supporters are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to approve the pipeline, which would transport heavy diluted bitumen, or dilbit, from the Canada's oil sands region to the U.S. Gulf Coast. They argue that the $5.3 billion Keystone XL project, built by TransCanada, could create thousands of U.S. and Canadian jobs and would boost the region’s energy independence.
Requests for comment from the American Petroleum Institute and other pipeline supporters were not returned by deadline.
On Tuesday, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, notified the president that he had approved the pipeline’s route through his state, a critical step in advancing the project. A day later, a bipartisan group of 53 senators urged Obama to approve the pipeline quickly, citing economic benefits and a minimal environmental impact.
This article is republished with permission from Inside Climate News , a non proft, non partisan news organisation that covers energy and climate change . This article is by Maria Gallucci