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What’s the impact of Obama’s Keystone pipeline decision?

What do lawmakers think of President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline? Judy Woodruff gets thoughts on the economic, environmental and political fallout from Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Clearly, there have been and remain big divides on this decision and the impact it will have for years to come.

    We sample some of that reaction with Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts who has opposed the pipeline, and Representative Leonard Lance. He’s a Republican from New Jersey who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He was in favor of it.

    Gentlemen, welcome to the program.

    Let me first get your reaction to what the president said and his explanation for it.

    Senator Markey, you first.

  • Sen. Edward Markey (d), Massachusetts:

    Well, it’s the right decision.

    The dirtiest oil in the world is the tar sand oil up in Canada. This would have constructed a pipeline like a straw through the United States, with us running all of the environmental risk, all the way down to Port Arthur, Texas, which is a tax-free export zone, and then the oil would just leave the United States. No guarantee that it would be used for American purposes, even as we export young men and women overseas to protect ships bringing oil into the Middle East.

    And so it’s a win on energy, it’s a win on climate, it’s a win on job creation, because this now puts the focus back on wind and solar and other renewable energy resources. And believe it or not, that the Canadians wouldn’t even have to have contributed to the oil liability tax fund in the event that there was an oil spill within the United States.

    So the president clearly made the right decision and has much more credibility as he heads to Paris to give the leadership to the rest of the world to reduce greenhouse gases.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Lance, how do you read this decision?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance (r), New Jersey:

    I think this is perception over reality.

    I think the pipeline would be in the national interest of the United States. It would have created 42,000 jobs for building the pipeline, some permanent jobs, and I think this was based upon politics and not the science and not on the merits.

    And I’m sorry that the president acted as he did today. A new president elected in 2016 could change the decision beginning in 2017, if the company reapplies. Canada is our strongest and closest ally. And while we’re permitting the purchase of Iranian oil across the globe, we’re not doing the same for our friend and ally Canada.

    And this was supported overwhelmingly by the American people and overwhelmingly in Congress in a bipartisan way both in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. I think the vote in the House was 270 to 156, and in the United States Senate something like 62 to 36. I think it’s unfortunate that the president made his decision today, seven years in the making, that should have been made within a year, and I’m sorry that the decision was made today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me ask you both about some of the points you’re making.

    Senator Markey, what about this point that — is this really a decision that’s going to have serious impact, when the next president could come along in just over a year and reverse it and say yes to the pipeline?

  • Sen. Edward Markey:

    I think that, obviously, there is a precedent which is being set.

    There is a decision made by a president after he has looked at the extensive record of environmental damage, as well as national security, and whether or not it does create energy independence, which it wouldn’t, because I actually made the amendment on the Senate floor in January saying that the oil has to stay in the United States.

    And just about every Republican voted no and defeated my effort to keep the oil in the United States. So, any time you hear them now talk about energy independence, then ask them why they voted against keeping it in our country, while the American Petroleum Institute is simultaneously trying to lift the ban on the exportation of oil that is drilled for in the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me ask…

  • Sen. Edward Markey:

    And we still import — we still import five million barrels of oil a day in our country, just pretty much the largest in the world, and yet this is a whole effort to export oil out of our country. It makes no sense whatsoever.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask Congressman Lance about that point.

    What about that?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance:

    Some of the oil would stay here. It would be refined here and stay here. Some of it would undoubtedly go abroad.

    But The Washington Post gave four Pinocchios to the president’s remarks earlier in the year that it would just go through this country and that some of it wouldn’t stay here. Some of it clearly would stay here. And that was evidenced by the decision of The Washington Post to give the president four Pinocchios on that matter.

    Regardless of that, I think that this is in the best interest of the United States. And, certainly, both the old Canadian prime minister and the new Canadian prime minister, Mr. Trudeau, support this. And I hope that a new president in 2017 will take a look at this again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Congressman Lance, let me just pick up on that. There is also an economic argument that’s been made that these oil companies may decide, given the low price of oil right now, that it may not be worth their while to ship this expensive tar sands oil through the pipeline.

    So, couldn’t that make this whole thing moot, this project?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance:

    I would imagine oil prices will rise over time. I cannot imagine they will stay where they are now. This obviously is an economic decision.

    But a pipeline, Judy, is safer than transporting oil by rail, and that really is the alternative, and the State Department recognizes that this is safer than the alternative through rail or truck, and that is another reason why I think the pipeline should be built.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Senator Markey, let me come back to something else. We’re seeing some analysis today that — and the president himself said this. He said this is a largely — or suggested this is largely a symbolic move. He said this is not going to be — quote — “the express lane to climate disaster that some people argue.”

    And the argument is made that one oil infrastructure projects is really not going to affect climate change that much.

  • Sen. Edward Markey:

    Well, on the other hand, you cannot preach temperance from a bar stool.

    So, if the United States is going to be in Paris, that’s what the president will be doing in representing our country, you can’t be telling the rest of the world to be reducing your greenhouse gases while simultaneously saying that we’re going to allow for a pipeline to be built with big environmental issues, carrying the dirtiest oil in the world, and to do so credibly as we tell other countries that they should reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, they should reduce their greenhouse gases.

    So I think that it’s not insignificant. In fact, I think it’s very important, in combination with the president’s clean power rules to reduce greenhouse gases from the utilities, which the Republicans oppose, to continue to keep the fuel economy standards heading towards 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025, which the Republicans pledge to take off the books, and to keep the tax breaks for wind and solar on the books, which the Republicans are pledging to take off the books.

    It’s part of a totality of a story that the United States can now bring with great credibility to Paris that makes it possible for us to say that, China and India and other countries, you must now do your part.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just 10 seconds left, Congressman Lance. Do you want to respond?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance:

    Yes, I don’t think either China or India will be impressed by this. I think this will make no difference at all in Paris, and I hope that a new president revisits this in 2017.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Leonard Lance, Senator Ed Markey, we thank you both.

  • Sen. Edward Markey:

    Thank you. Appreciate it.

  • Rep. Leonard Lance:

    Thank you.

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