The letter, signed by 11 Senate Democrats, including five running for reelection in red states, urges President Barack Obama to make a decision by May 31 on a long-delayed segment of the 1,700-mile pipeline to transport oil from Canada to Texas.
“We cannot miss another construction season, given the long, cold winter this year along the Keystone XL route and the time required for ground thaw, we could be looking at a very short season. We need a definitive timeline laid out,” lawmakers said in the letter.
“The time to act is now, Mr. President. Please use your executive authority to expedite this process to a swift conclusion and a final decision so that we can all move forward on other energy infrastructure needs in this country,” the letter said.
Udall has said that he wants to keep politics out of the pipeline issue, but his refusal to sign the letter appears to reinforce his allegiance to the environmental movement and move him farther from the Democratic Party’s moderate wing.
“I think this leaves Udall looking indecisive and appearing to be against it,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “Those 11 Democrats have made clear that, ‘Now is we believe the moment.’ He was clearly asked to do it; there was no doubt he was on the list. It was, ‘Here, sign here,’ and he said, ‘No I’m not going to sign.’”
Among those who signed the letter are the five Democrats facing this year’s toughest reelection battles: Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Sen. John Walsh of Montana.
Udall voted last year against a resolution in support of the Keystone pipeline and spoke at last month’s Senate climate-change all-nighter, but has recently moved to position himself as pro-energy in the aftermath of polls showing him neck and neck against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner.
Udall sponsored a bill last month to expedite exports of liquid natural gas, and has insisted that he favors an “all of the above” approach to energy.
Environmental groups are staunchly opposed to the pipeline, arguing that it would increase hydrocarbon emissions from fossil fuels and contribute to climate change.
A poll released March 5 found that Colorado voters would be less likely to support Udall if the president rejects the pipeline project, which requires White House approval because it crosses an international boundary.
“He’s indeed trying to balance this politically, but what I’d say is those 11 Senate Democrats have made it very, very hard to stand aside and say that you’re either still deliberating it or you don’t want to add politics to it,” said Ciruli.