No matter who wins the presidential race in November, the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will eventually be approved, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean agreed on Wednesday.
“I think it’s going to be approved one way or the other,” said Barrasso, speaking at a Democratic National Convention event in Charlotte hosted by National Journal, The Atlantic, and the American Petroleum Institute.
Earlier this year, Barrasso had pushed for an expedited decision from the White House on the pipeline proposed to carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. But after Republicans in Congress set a 60-day deadline for action, President Obama said there wasn’t sufficient time for a full review and rejected a permit for the project.
Dean, a former Democratic presidential candidate who now works for a law firm that represents TransCanada, the company hoping to build the Keystone XL, said he thought Obama was going to approve the pipeline, but was pushed to reject it by the Republican ultimatum.
“I actually think that President Obama would have said ‘yes’ to Keystone,” Dean said. “They essentially forced him to block it. It didn’t get built because Republicans shortened the approval time.”
The former chairman of the Democratic National Committee also said politics appeared to guide Obama’s initial decision a year ago to delay a permit decision until 2013. “I think he was intending to put it off till after the election for obvious reasons, because there’s a fair number of constituents that don’t like it,” Dean said.
Dean said he now expects Obama to approve the pipeline project after the election, noting that the Canadian oil sands will be developed no matter what happens.
After Obama rejected a permit for the full project in January, he came out in support of building the southern portion of the pipeline to ease a jam on oil moving from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast. Since then, TransCanada has applied for a new permit for the northern portion of the project and on Wednesday announced a new route for that leg.
Barrasso, expected to easily win a second Senate term this fall against Democrat Tim Chesnut, went further than he has before to acknowledge the problem of climate change at the NJ/Atlantic/API panel.
“I think that over the history of the Earth, climate has continued to change,” Barasso said. “The extent is still up to debate.”
Meanwhile, Dean said regulation of hydraulic fracturing, the process of extracting shale gas also known as “fracking,” should be regulated by states.
“There are some things that can be regulated by the states, and I think this is one of them,” Dean said, citing a typically Republican stance on the issue.
Although Vermont was the first state to ban fracking, Dean said that he does not oppose natural-gas production in the U.S. “I think there’s a safe way to produce and use natural gas,” he said.