Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg defended a decision to halt the Keystone XL pipeline during his confirmation hearing Thursday to become the transportation secretary.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, criticized President Joe Biden's action Wednesday canceling the pipeline as part of his flurry of executive orders after the new president's inauguration Wednesday.
The controversial pipeline, which would deliver some 830,000 barrels of crude tar sand oil a day from the Canadian city of Hardisty, Alberta, to Steel City, Neb., had been stalled by the Obama administration when Biden was vice president but it was favored by the Trump administration.
In the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, Cruz challenged Buttigieg to comment on Biden's decision. Cruz said the move will cost thousands of union-paying jobs and was "altogether out of step with what the people want."
Buttigieg countered by saying jobs will be created in the clean environment sector and the administration cannot ignore the negative environmental impact the pipeline would foster.
"We can [create jobs] while recognizing the fact that when the books are written about our careers, one of the main things we will be judged on is whether we did enough to stop the destruction of life and property due to climate change. If you can I can make common cause in our support of labor then I think that's great."
Republicans also pressed the former South Bend, Ind., mayor on the dwindling Highway Trust Fund. Buttigieg said that "all options are on the table" in addressing the gasoline tax used to fund the account, currently at 18.3 cents per gallon for regular gasoline and 24.3 cents for diesel.
The former mayor was peppered by questions from Republicans like Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rick Scott of Florida about dwindling funds because of cheaper gas and the dawn of electric vehicle use.
While not committing to specific solutions, Buttigieg said he would look at possibly raising the gas tax but added that such an increase would be more regressive affecting the poor the most and less effective in the long run.
In responding to Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Buttigieg turned back a question about regulations, saying that as a former mayor he is sensitive to eliminating some of the red tape local and state officials face in getting infrastructure projects done but added that regulations "are there for a reason."
Buttigieg appeared confident and calm in many of his answers in front of the committee, earning praise from Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who said he put on "a clinic" on how nominees should be prepared to take on tough questions.
If confirmed, Buttigieg, 38, will become the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary.
"We will make sure that creating jobs, tackling the climate crisis, and centering equity are at the heart of our transportation and infrastructure vision," Buttigieg tweeted not long after he was nominated for the post.
At a rally a year ago, Biden compared Buttigieg to his late son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46 and similarly served in the military.
Buttigieg served as South Bend mayor between 2012 and 2020 and launched a bid for the White House in early 2019. He suspended his campaign last March after he finished fourth in the South Carolina primary, the same event that catapulted Biden into front-runner status in the 2020 Democratic race. Just one of Biden's Cabinet nominees has been confirmed so far by the full Senate. Late Wednesday, the chamber approved the nomination of Avril Haines as Biden's director of national intelligence.