Weekly Columns

In a recent survey sent to more than 30,000 Arkansans, I asked what issues the new majority in the Senate should focus on in the upcoming 114th Congress. Participants told me that one of their top priorities is an all-of-the-above energy policy that addresses current and future energy needs. 

There is bipartisan agreement in the Senate that our energy policy must include the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. Unfortunately for more than six years, the President has refused to approve the permit to allow its construction. This is a commonsense plan to help reduce our dependence on oil from unstable regions and help create jobs in Arkansas. 

Officials at Welspun Tubular, the Little Rock based company hired to produce hundreds of miles of pipe for the project, estimate that 150 jobs will be created just to load pipe onto rail cars for shipment when the project gets the green light. 

Instead of being used to transport oil, the pipe is collecting dust. I saw the pipe that was created for the project during a tour of Welspun earlier this month. The longer the project is stalled, the more likely additional work will have to be done to the pipe including added inspections and recovering the pipe with a special anti-corrosive coating. 

The economic impact has wide reach in our state. Blytheville’s Nucor Corporation was slated to make some of the steel for the pipe. A central Arkansas Caterpillar employee wrote to me about the importance of this project to his job because of its impact on his livelihood. ‘The Keystone pipeline project would be a huge boost to us,” he wrote. 

Once built, the pipeline will provide a safe and reliable supply of energy. The project will help maintain lower fuels prices, which is good for all Arkansans -- at the gas pump, at the store, and for job creation. 

I have repeatedly urged the administration to stop delaying the permit, and I have voted for legislation to expedite the pipeline’s construction.  It wasn’t until November that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally allowed a vote on this important legislation. Unfortunately it was for political reasons and the legislation fell one vote short of passing. I’m confident that the Republican-controlled Senate will be able to pass this legislation. 

This proposed 1,700 mile pipeline would transport 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to U.S. refineries along the Gulf Coast. Tapping into these oil sands will offer us a reliable source of energy from our strongest ally and trading partner and according to the Department of Energy will provide enough oil to, for example, offset imports from Venezuela. 

Opponents of the project point to environmental concerns, but the Obama Administration has conducted several environmental studies and each has concluded there would be no significant environmental impact along the proposed route. A new, modern pipeline poses less risk to the environment than other modes of transportation. 

While the administration continues to reject this project, the next Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, says Keystone will be the Senate’s first order of business in the next Congress. I will continue to support this plan because it will put Arkansans to work and provide a reliable source of energy for our future.