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What does John Podesta’s addition mean to fate of Keystone XL?

Trust and transparency. Those were supposed to be the hallmarks of President Obama's administration.

We were told that this would be the most transparent administration in history but when the IRS got caught targeting conservative groups, the administration took the fifth.

We were told that this White House would be free from the influence of lobbyists. Instead they've hired them.

We were told that if you liked your health care, you could keep it; we all know how that story has ended.


Month after month, the Barack Obama presidency has been under siege with questions about Operation Fast and Furious, the terrorist attack in Benghazi, the surveillance activities of the NSA, the actions of the IRS and the disastrous implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

All the while, the nation's largest pending infrastructure project sits in limbo.

Newly appointed White House counselor John Podesta, a chief of staff under Bill Clinton and founder of the Center for American Progress, is more than just a lobbyist. He is a devoted opponent to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

He characterized Republican efforts to move the president towards supporting the pipeline's completion as a "horrible error." He helped organize the anti-Keystone campaign funded by billionaire activist Tom Steyer. While the State Department conducted a draft environmental impact review revealing popular liberal doctrine was wrong and the pipeline would have no impact on climate change, Podesta suggested a "fair review" would reveal different results.

It's nice to know the President's new right-hand man doesn't believe the State Department is fair.

Be that as it may, what does it say that this administration spent more than three years and $600 million building a website that didn't work—but for some reason, can't in five years determine whether it's in our nation's interest to build a pipeline that will secure our energy independence, create jobs and strengthen our relationship with our nation's number one trading partner.


Representative Lee Terry, R-Nebraska
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images
Representative Lee Terry, R-Nebraska

This administration has already proven that it's a relatively simple process to make a decision and approve a cross-border pipeline.

In 2010, the president approved the Alberta Clipper Pipeline, which brings 440,000 barrels per day of oil from Alberta's oil sands region into Superior, Wisconsin. And less than a month ago, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, a presidential permit was granted for a $260 million cross-border pipeline carrying 95,000 barrels per day from the Chicago-land area to Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.

The president has repeatedly said he would study the Keystone XL issue, but when you look at the facts, you have to ask yourself how much studying do we really need?

As of right now, there have been more than 15,500 pages of environmental impact studies. In comparison, there have been 20,000 pages of rules and regulations related to the implementation of the president's health care plan.

What's disappointing is that the lack of progress and urgency for Keystone has nothing to do with studies or facts – it's about a radical ideology being used to justify not doing something that would benefit all Americans.

Congress meanwhile has been taking actions to make it easier to approve Keystone—which is why the House, in bipartisan fashion, passed my legislation, the Northern Route Approval Act, to clear away the road blocks preventing construction of the pipeline.

What's laughable is that the administration says that John Podesta will recuse himself from any decisions related to Keystone. Ask yourself – do you really believe them?

You never know. We could all wake up during the Christmas break, some 1,900 days after the application was first submitted, and find the approval of the pipeline in our stocking. I mean we all know how this administration feels about coal so maybe there's still a chance this can get done.

At the very least, you would hope that the president would be willing to begin a real and direct dialogue with Congress about Keystone.

Twice now, I've reached out to the president in the spirit of working together to get something done but have never received a response. I promise you this; I'm not going to give up.

President Obama often talks about changing Washington and working with Congress. With Keystone, he has a chance to make good on his rhetoric, because at this point taking him at his word just isn't good enough.

— Rep. Lee Terry (R-Nebraska) is a senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

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