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Chairman Menendez Opening Remarks at Hearing on Keystone XL

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing on “Keystone XL and the National Interest Determination.”

“Good morning. We are here today with a distinguished panel of experts and advocates to address something that has long been an issue of practical and political concern for many in this town and across the nation. And today we are here to find answers and shed more light than heat on the issue... hear the facts, and the rationale on both sides.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline cross-border segment would link Morgan, Montana at the Canadian border to Steele City, Nebraska. It would have a capacity of 830,000 barrels of tar sands per day.

Later this year, the State Department will determine whether the project is in the national interest and that is the question we will hear testimony about today from our four panelists.

I hope this can be a balanced, thoughtful hearing – a hearing that puts aside some of the politics that have surrounded this debate, and deal with the underlying question of what is in our national interest.

I hope we can build a record – on both sides of this debate – that may not result in agreement, but may result in more agreed upon facts.

Proponents of the pipeline point to jobs, economic development and energy security as reasons why the pipeline should be approved; and claim that the alleged harm to the environment is overstated.

Opponents raise climate change concerns, concerns about potential spills, and downplay any energy security or economic advantages of the pipeline.

That is not to say I don’t have my own views. I do, but I want to hear the facts from our witnesses and have a full-throated, open discussion.

Before I conclude, I also want to introduce into the record a letter written on behalf of the 500,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, signed by their distinguished General President, Terry O’Sullivan. The letter strongly supports the Keystone XL Pipeline, and without objection I enter it into the record.

I have called for this hearing because this Committee has been a bastion of bipartisanship when it comes to such issues, and – with the help of Senator Corker – I know we can have a rational discussion today.

Both Senator Corker and I believe this is a debate worth having and I want to thank the ranking member for helping put this hearing together and the 4 witnesses before us for taking the time provide their insights.

Senator Corker, do you have opening remarks?”


“Our panelists today are: Karen Alderman Harbert, President and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy, and as deputy assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID.

General James L. Jones is currently President of the Jones Group International.  Over his distinguished forty-year career in the Marine Corps, General Jones served as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, and as the 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps. Following his retirement from the Marine Corps, General Jones served as a special envoy for Middle East security, and as the President’s National Security Advisor. General, we welcome you, and we thank you for your service to this country.

Doctor James Hansen is an Adjunct Professor and Director of the Earth Institute Program on Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions at Columbia University. For more than three decades, Dr. Hansen served as the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and his scholarly work has made him a respected leader in the field of climate science.

And, lastly, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and formerly of the Rainforest Action Network. Mr. Brune, it’s always good to have a fellow New Jerseyan come before the Committee.

Let me say that, in the past, Dr. Hansen and Mr. Brune have both been arrested at protests of the Keystone Pipeline. I can’t guarantee it, but I hope this proves to be a more comfortable experience.

Welcome to you all, and thank you for taking the time to be here.

I would remind you that your full statements will be included in the record and I ask that you try to summarize them in 5 minutes to allow us to have a full discussion of the issues.”