U.S. Senate leaders last week accepted a two-month extension to a payroll tax cut in a measure that included a rider requiring the White House to decide within 60 days whether to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
The State Department has authority to decide on Keystone XL because it crosses international borders. Nebraskans persuaded pipeline company TransCanada to look at alternative routes in through the state, which meant the State Department likely wouldn't have made a decision until after 2012 presidential elections.
National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said, in last weekend on CNN's "State of the Union," the Keystone rider means the State Department can't get a full review completed.
"The experts at the State Department … made clear before this legislation was even voted on that, if they were only given 60 days to look at alternative routes in Nebraska and do the serious environmental and health reviews, that that would (not) be enough time and would make it almost certainly impossible to extend that permit," he said.
Alberta crude is considered more damaging to the environment than conventional crude. Actor Robert Redford, an outspoken critic of Keystone XL, warned, in an op-ed published by The Huffington Post, to not be fooled by Republican claims the pipeline is needed to boost the economy.
"What they care about is trying to somehow embarrass the president, to force his hand with an arbitrary deadline and cause a rush to judgment on a matter of serious national concern," he writes.