Manchin urges Biden to reconsider Keystone XL pipeline

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is asking President Joe Biden to reverse his decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Manchin, the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee, urged Biden in a letter Tuesday to allow the pipeline, arguing oil will still arrive in the United States by trucks and railways, which poses safety risks.

“Pipelines continue to be the safest mode to transport our oil and natural gas resources and they support thousands of high-paying, American union jobs,” Manchin said.

One of Biden’s first acts as president was revoking the permit for the pipeline, which would transport an estimated 800,000 barrels of oil daily from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (Office of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin)

The Obama administration in November 2015 determined the pipeline would not serve the national interest. Former President Donald Trump in March 2017 approved a permit for constructing the pipeline and related facilities, and gave new authorization more than two years later.

Manchin and 43 other senators in 2012 pushed a bill approving the project, and he voted in 2014 and 2015 for legislation allowing the pipeline. The 2015 measure made it to Obama’s desk, but the then-president vetoed the bill.

Biden has pursued an ambitious climate change agenda since taking office, which has included returning the United States to the Paris climate agreement. Manchin, however, has stressed a desire to balance economic development, energy security and addressing climate change.

Manchin noted in his letter the importance of transporting energy in “the safest and most environmentally responsible way,” and mentioned the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline with the Keystone XL project. The finished Mountain Valley Pipeline project would result in two billion cubic feet of natural gas going from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia each day. West Virginia and Virginia agencies have fined the project’s owners multiple times for erosion and water quality issues.

“Ongoing development of responsible energy infrastructure supports your ‘Build Back Better’ priorities by keeping Americans working while strengthening North American economic and energy security,” Manchin wrote to the president. “It is of the utmost importance that the United States maintain that energy security through strategic relationships with our allies rather than increasing reliance on OPEC nations and Russia.”

Senate Republicans noticed Manchin’s letter, citing it as evidence the president’s policy decisions do not align with Senate Democrats.

“We’re only a few weeks into Joe Biden’s presidency and even Democrats are upset,” the conference said on Twitter.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso is chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee.

Fourteen state attorneys general sent a separate letter to Biden requesting he reconsider the project. The group stressed the economic consequences related to revoking the permit.

“America needs every tool in her possession to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger and more secure,” the attorneys general said Tuesday. “You have expressed a commitment to unite the Nation. If that is to be more than empty rhetoric, you must fully consider and account for the alarming effects your actions have on states, local communities, families, and workers.”

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen led the letter. West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey was one of the signees.

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