A few short weeks after the Obama administration decided to put off a final decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a batch of Republican senators introduced legislation today that would force the president to approve the pipeline within 60 days.
The North American Energy Security Act, put forward by Senator Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), would also put the kibosh on further study of the pipeline's environmental impact. Demand by environmental activists for a more thorough consideration of environmental impacts was one contributing factor to the pipeline's delay.
At the heart of the legislation is the oft-repeated claim that the pipeline would create 20,000 jobs, mostly in construction.
"We have a dramatic opportunity to create American jobs NOW!" Lugar said in an emphatic statement.
That figure, which comes from an estimate by TransCanada (the Canadian behemoth behind the pipeline), has become a mantra for pipeline supporters, despite having been widely debunked. In fact, a September study by Cornell University's Global Labor Institute found that the pipeline could actually kill more jobs than it creates.
Nevertheless, Lugar and co-sponsors John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and David Vitter (R-La.) have framed Obama's delayed decision as an affront to job creation, a move Natural Resources Defense Council spokesman Anthony Swift dismissed as "political theater."
The bill "is being used as a messaging piece," Swift said, adding that he thought the bill very unlikely to reach the Senate floor, much less pass into law (given Obama's recent decision to delay making a final call, it would be pretty surprising if he signed legislation mandating a rushed verdict).
"His decision to do an environmental review was an imminently sensible one, and I don't think he's likely to reverse it," Swift said.