All-Star Panel: Reaction to WH delay of Keystone pipeline decision

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 18, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JOHN HOEVEN, R – N.D.: Well, clearly the president is trying to defeat this project through delay. We're now in year six, and I think he epitomizes that by putting out an announcement on the afternoon of Good Friday to try to minimize the press coverage. I've got legislation in to approve it congressionally. And we've got about 56, 57 votes. We need to exceed the 60 vote threshold.


BAIER: Well, the Keystone XL pipeline decision has been delayed, deciding not to decide, saying the State Department needs more time to assess the route in Nebraska as litigation goes forward, and also to hear from comments, more than 2.5 million of them according to the State Department. A couple of other senators and congressmen weighed in, as you can imagine. Senator Barbara Boxer, a proponent of this decision, said given the unprecedented number of comments from public on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, the legal uncertainties due to lawsuits in Nebraska, the State Department was entirely correct to delay a decision on the pipeline. It's been delayed numerous times.

When you look at public perception of the pipeline, take a look at the most recent poll. Pew Research Center, favor 61 percent, oppose 27 percent.  Here's another Democrat, however, who is appalled by the decision, Mary Landrieu, of course up for reelection in Louisiana, released this statement. "The decision is irresponsible, unnecessary, and unacceptable. By making it clear that they will not move the process forward until there is a resolution in a lawsuit in Nebraska the administration is sending a signal that the small minority who oppose the pipeline can tie up the process in court forever. There are 42,000 jobs, $20 billion in economic activity, and North America's energy security at stake."

With that set up, let's bring in our panel, Jason Riley, editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, Elise Viebeck, staff writer for The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Jason?

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. This is not about delay. It's about trying to kill the project. It also illustrates to me, Bret, how ideologically driven this president is. Put aside the Republican criticisms. You've got Democrats like Senator Landrieu, you just quoted, in tough Senate races, Mark Begich in Alaska is another one. Mark Pryor in Arkansas is another one. These guys are getting killed in their campaigns over this issue. The president doesn't care. You've got labor leaders saying, Mr. President, tens of thousands of jobs, well-paying union jobs. He doesn't care. The only group that has his ear are the radical greens. He can't get his climate change legislation through Congress, and this is all he has to offer them, obstruction on a purely symbolic basis.

BAIER: Environmental groups, Elise, like Tom Steyer's group who is putting a lot of his own money in these elections come November. He released this statement. "This is rotten eggs for TransCanada and good news on Good Friday for those who oppose Keystone as not being in our nation's best interest." It appear that Tom Steyer has made an impact, or at least you could assume so, with some of these decisions.

ELISE VIEBECK, STAFF WRITER, THE HILL: Absolutely. I think it's clear that the White House is listening to its left flank. I think that there are also worse things for people like Mary Landrieu than to be seen blasting President Obama in the re-election race. So there's certainly a mixed bag for Democrats here. Clearly unions do support the project going forward. They are very angry with President Obama, but he's also concerned about turnout on the left and he's concerned about those donors who are highly motivated this cycle to beat Republicans and maintain control of the Senate, and they tend to be concerned about environmental issues.

BAIER: Which is really interesting, because you look back at the interview we just had here on "Special Report" with the ambassador of Canada. Just take another listen.


GARY DOER, CANADIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: There's hundreds of trucks every day on Highway 2 in North Dakota.

BAIER: Which are shooting out emissions left and right?

DOER: Well, they have higher emissions. There is a role for rail, for smaller refineries. But when you look at the amount of oil coming from North Dakota, Montana, and Canada, it is the cleanest, safest way to proceed. And the debate has become symbolic but not substantial in terms of why we should proceed with this project.


BAIER: Making the case that the market's there, Charles. The trucks and the railway they are going to deliver it at more emissions than a pipeline would.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is the most open and shut case for any energy project, any project anywhere that I have ever seen.  The ambassador spelled it out in minute detail, economically, in terms of national security, our dependence on the Venezuelans on the Middle East, clearly in terms of jobs, in terms of energy independence. But even on the terms that the opposition is arguing -- greenhouse gases -- it fails on its own terms. The oil will come through. The oil is coming through, and it comes through, as he explained, on rail and truck, which creates more emissions.  There is no substantial ground on which to make the case.

In fact, it's very dangerous. We know there was an accident with rail through Quebec carrying oil that destroyed a town, killed -- burned to death 40 people instantly. And the other thing that he didn't mention is that these oil shipments are taking up so much of the rail transport that other goods can't get to market in the United States, which increases the price of all the products that travel through the western and northern United States. In other words, every economic argument is against this, and all that's left, I think, as Jason said, is pure ideology.

I would just add one fact that the ambassador was too discreet to mention. It is a spit in the eye of Canada, our closest ally, helps us in all kinds of tight spots around the world, trying to help use with Ukraine, and this is absolute disrespect of the highest order for our closest friend.

BAIER: Jason, I get a lot e-mails and tweets from people who say this is about Warren Buffett; and he owns the railways and this is political payback.

RILEY: I think this is about his inability to work with Congress to get his agenda through.

BAIER: President Obama.

RILEY: President Obama, and he really has nothing else to offer these green groups. He has nothing of substance, and they are interested in a symbolic victory here. This is a cause celeb among the radical greens, and that's who he's trying to appease here.

I also think this notion that a court case or we need more safety reviews of this being put forth by the administration as an excuse is also bogus. This is a president who has not hesitated to use his executive authority to get things done when it suits his agenda. This does not suit his agenda.

BAIER: And quickly, Elise, four Democrats making this case, does this make it tougher, maybe not the red state Democrats like Landrieu and Begich, but other Democrats, does it make it tougher for them with this issue, or does it help them?

VIEBECK: I think the real test is going to come after November when Republicans perhaps claim the Senate, and then you have two chambers in support of this. Will President Obama continue to say no?

BAIER: Next up, the Friday Lightning Round.

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