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Montana bipartisan support of Keystone XL is encouraging

| February 7, 2021 12:00 AM

The Keystone XL pipeline has been a political football since Day One, largely because it touches on so many hot-button issues — good-paying jobs, the economy and the environment, for starters. But here in Montana there has been bipartisan support for the pipeline project President Biden canceled in an executive order on his first day in office.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to support Montana Sen. Steve Daines’ amendment, with two Democrats — including Montana’s Jon Tester — joining the GOP in the longshot effort to override the president and reauthorize construction of the long-disputed oil pipeline.

Tester voted for a previous bill to authorize the pipeline in 2015 and later that year joined 61 other senators in an unsuccessful vote to override a veto by then-President Barack Obama. In a letter to President Biden, Tester stressed "the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline would be a powerful economic driver for Montana. I continue to support this project as long it is built to the highest safety standards, uses American steel, respects private property rights and includes robust consultation with tribes."

In the U.S. House, Montana GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale also has introduced legislation to reauthorize the pipeline, which would run through Montana and five other states, transporting crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to ports and refineries along the Gulf Coast. The bill would allow TC Energy Corp. to continue construction without a presidential permit.

This rare show of bipartisanship from Montana’s congressional delegation is encouraging, and their support of the Keystone XL clearly echoes the sentiments of a majority of Montanans who also support the pipeline. Perhaps there’s some hope yet that both sides of the political aisle can work together and compromise to keep this important project afloat.

Another encouraging twist came recently from TC Energy Corp. itself, which announced a new sustainable energy initiative for the Keystone XL. The company vows to achieve net zero emissions across the project operations when it is placed into service in 2023 and has committed the pipeline operations will be fully powered by renewable energy sources no later than 2030. It would seem the energy company’s commitment to sustainability is another layer of compromise in the works.

As part of this announcement, TC Energy said it intends to spur an investment of more than $1.7 billion in communities along the Keystone XL footprint, creating approximately 1.6 gigawatts of renewable electric capacity, and thousands of construction jobs in rural and Indigenous communities.

The pipeline's construction would support more than 10,000 jobs in 2021 nationwide, though a much smaller number of workers would be needed to operate it in the long term.

The Keystone XL, if allowed to continue, doesn’t have to be an us-versus-them issue. The conversion to “clean” energy won’t happen overnight, just as the transition of our natural resource industries to renewable resources will be a gradual process that likely will take decades.

In the meantime, the Keystone XL project is worth salvaging. Let’s not throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.