Thursday, April 19, 2012

Potential Pipeline Veto Threatens Highway Trust Fund

While Nebraska officials search for an alternate route for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which could avoid burying the tube for transportation of Canadian tar sands oil in the grasslands and hilly marshes overlying the all important Ogallala aquifer which supplies fresh drinking and irrigation water to much of the south central United States, Washington D. C. politicians are once again threatening gridlock to most federal infrastructure funding by threats and counterthreats respecting temporary extension legislation for the federal Highway Trust Fund.  The current Highway Trust Fund band aid extension will expire June 30, and House Republicans are seeking to attach a requirement mandating construction of Keystone XL to another temporary extension bill which would keep highway, rail, transit and waterway funds flowing from Washington through September 30. President Obama yesterday threatened to veto any highway bill including a Keystone XL Construction mandate.

The $7 billion Trans Canada project received authorization from the Nebraska legislature for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to evaluate new routing options, rather than the state’s elected Public Service Commission. Governor Heineman is expected to sign the bill. The bill authorizes what opponents characterize as a “rubber stamp” approval of any alternate route proposed by Trans Canada, and gives Trans Canada eminent domain powers to acquire rights of way once the new route is established.

Of course, since the pipeline will cross the U.S./Canada border, Trans Canada will also need federal approval for the project, and President Obama recently rejected the company’s application for the required federal permit. The Highway Trust Fund extension amendment threatened by House Republicans is intended to overturn that Executive Branch decision. Once again, election campaign talking points have trumped intelligent policy analysis, and the bankruptcy of leadership in both political parties is exposed for all citizens to see.

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