Will John Kerry Make or Break Keystone XL?
John Kerry will officially succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Voted in by the Senate yesterday with 94 votes, Senator Kerry is considered by both Republicans and Democrats to be uniquely qualified for the Secretary of State position. He has been in the Senate for 28 years and chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which unanimously passed Kerry’s nomination for final approval. Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who will replace Kerry as Chair, remarked, “John has already built strong relationships across the world . . . He will need no introduction to the world’s leaders.” Secretary Clinton’s last day in office will be February 1st, and a special election to fill Kerry’s Massachusetts Senate seat is scheduled for June.
Kerry is well known for his stance on climate change and environmental issues. The Keystone XL pipeline will be one of Kerry’s first issues to address. The pipeline would carry oil from Canada to Texas refineries, and has met with resistance from environmental groups. A slim majority of the Senate has voiced concern that the project move forward. Fifty three senators wrote to Kerry to “choose jobs, economic development, and American energy security” when considering the pipeline. As Secretary of State, Kerry will have a major role in whether or not the pipeline is approved. While President Obama will make the final decision on the pipeline, the project falls under State Department jurisdiction because it crosses the US border. Kerry has been quoted saying he will review the 1,200 mile pipeline proposal appropriately. “There are specific standards that have to be met with respect to that review, and I’m going to review those standards and make sure they’re complete,” he has said. Kerry also acknowledged climate change as one of the “life threatening issues” that will drive foreign policy.
Fiscal and economic responsibility will be a focus of Kerry’s foreign relations policy. At a hearing last week, his remarks included a focus on reducing debt and organizing America’s fiscal policy. “I am especially cognizant of the fact that we can’t be strong in the world unless we’re strong at home,” said Senator Kerry. He noted that the US is facing scrutiny around the world about its capability to manage national finances.
How will Kerry’s stance on economic responsibility affect his recommendation on the Keystone XL pipeline? We will find out in a few months, as a full review of the project is not expected to be complete until late March or April. Perhaps financial responsibility and environmental stewardship do not have to be at odds with one another. Senator Kerry’s remarks about climate change and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline illustrate that he understands the multiple aspects of the issue at hand. In fact, in 2011 he explained to reporters that he would do his best “to leave no question unanswered, including every possible economic and environmental consideration.” As a politician, diplomat, and environmental advocate, Kerry could perhaps be perfectly qualified to review such a project. Thus far he has been completely neutral about the issue when asked, and has said he will only make his assessment when the official review makes it to his desk.
Will Kerry act on his track record as a “climate hawk” and recommend that President Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline? Or, will he take into consideration the majority of the Senate’s plea for acting on behalf of American jobs, economy, and energy independence?
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