Senate Hearing Puts Keystone Pipeline in Spotlight

US Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, speaks as he introduces Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for Johnson's nomination to be Homeland Security secretary in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on November 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
March 10, 2014, 4:26 a.m.

Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Robert Men­en­dez is fi­nally mak­ing good on his long-stand­ing pledge to hold a hear­ing on the pro­posed Key­stone XL pipeline.

The com­mit­tee will hear Thursday from pipeline op­pon­ents and boost­ers at a hear­ing on the pro­ject and the State De­part­ment’s on­go­ing re­view to de­term­ine wheth­er ap­prov­ing it would be in the “na­tion­al in­terest.”

It ar­rives more than a year after Men­en­dez, a New Jer­sey Demo­crat who op­poses the pipeline, first said he planned to put the pro­ject un­der the com­mit­tee’s mi­cro­scope at some point.

Wit­nesses will be evenly split on Key­stone. Si­erra Club Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or Mi­chael Brune and former NASA cli­mate sci­ent­ist James Hansen, who has been ap­pear­ing be­fore Con­gress to dis­cuss glob­al warm­ing since the 1980s, will testi­fy against the pro­ject.

Sev­er­al years ago Hansen, who is af­fil­i­ated with the Columbia Uni­versity’s Earth In­sti­tute, said that fully ex­ploit­ing Al­berta’s vast oil sands re­sources would be “game over” for the cli­mate.

The phrase has be­come a ral­ly­ing cry for act­iv­ists op­pos­ing Tran­sCanada’s pro­posed pipeline to bring crude oil from Al­berta across the bor­der to Gulf Coast re­finer­ies.

Kar­en Har­bert, who is pres­id­ent of the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce’s In­sti­tute for 21st Cen­tury En­ergy and a former En­ergy De­part­ment of­fi­cial un­der Pres­id­ent George W. Bush, will make the pro-Key­stone case.

So will re­tired Gen. James Jones, who was Pres­id­ent Obama’s na­tion­al se­cur­ity ad­viser.

He’s one of sev­er­al former Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who fa­vor the pro­ject, al­though a num­ber of ex-aides, in­clud­ing former cli­mate czar Car­ol Brown­er, are bat­tling Key­stone too.

The hear­ing does not in­clude any Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion wit­nesses.

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