Landrieu Strikes Out with Obama, Reid on Keystone Pipeline

Published July 2, 2014

Sen. Mary Landrieu continues to strike out with President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in her attempt to get their support for building the Keystone XL pipeline.

Meeting with Obama Yields Nothing
Landrieu (D-LA) emphasized to reporters on June 25 she would be bringing up the Keystone pipeline in a meeting that evening with President Obama. After the meeting, and as June turned to July, Obama showed no sign Landrieu had influenced him to end his stalling on a decision whether to allow construction of the pipeline.

As Obama continues to delay a decision, Canada appears to be losing patience. This spring, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners announced it will expand its pipeline from the Alberta oil fields to West Coast export terminals, effectively tripling the amount of oil it can deliver for shipment to Asia. Canadian government officials supported Kinder Morgan’s announcement, saying it is important to diversify Canada’s potential oil exports in light of Obama’s ongoing failure to approve the delivery of western Canadian oil to the United States via the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Obama’s failure to approve the Keystone pipeline threatens to disrupt North American energy security. Currently, more than 98 percent of Canadian crude oil exports go to the United States. By forcing Canada to build infrastructure for Asian exports, the United States will increasingly have to compete for privilege of purchasing Canadian oil.

Reid Blocks Vote
In a close election contest against Republican challenger Bill Cassidy, Landrieu claims she will be more effective than Cassidy in advocating for the Keystone pipeline and other energy production issues because a Democratic senator will have more pull with the Obama administration and Senate Democrats than a Republican.

Obama, however, has given no indication he will allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built. Reid, moreover, is using his power as Senate Majority Leader to block a Senate vote on the pipeline; Landrieu voted for Reid as Senate leader. The Keystone XL pipeline appears to have majority support in the Senate, but Reid has vowed to block a vote unless Republicans cave in to some of his demands on other issues. Republicans responded by saying they will not be bullied by Reid’s demands.

“I’m not giving up until it is built,” Landrieu said before her meeting with Obama. “I’ve been in a lot of tough fights over the years, and the ones that matter the most are the toughest. I won’t give up on Keystone until we get it built, and I will press for a vote on the Senate floor.”

Despite her vows and her insistence she is better able than Cassidy to induce federal approval for the pipeline, neither Obama nor Reid appears to be listening to Landrieu.

No Record of Influence
Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), notes Landrieu is one of the few pro-energy senators in her party, but she has no pull with President Obama or his administration.

“President Obama is the most anti-energy president the United States has seen, and Sen. Landrieu has no ability to influence the administration in any way,” said Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research (IER).

“If Sen. Landrieu cannot get a vote on the Keystone XL, it is her own fault. She voted for Sen. Harry Reid as Majority Leader, and he is the biggest impediment to a vote on Keystone XL in the Senate,” Simmons explained.

“If anything, it gives her the chance to publicly stand against President Obama on an issue that is popular with the voters. She’s hoping this will make them forget about how she sold them down the river by voting for ObamaCare,” said Seton Motley, president of the public policy organization Less Government.

Energy and environment consultant H. Sterling Burnett said Landrieu blew an earlier opportunity to shepherd the Keystone pipeline through the Senate.

“She could have wrangled the necessary votes during the first year of President Obama’s first term,” said Burnett.

“We’ve known Keystone was safeā€”even President Obama’s own State Department has issued two reports giving the pipeline its approval,” Burnett added.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.