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Walsh pipeline bill draws criticism

By Heidi Meili, Anchor, hmeili@keci.com
Published On: May 09 2014 09:23:11 PM MDT
Updated On: May 09 2014 11:07:29 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Sen. John Walsh is introducing federal legislation to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.  He says the country can't afford to wait any longer for a project that brings jobs to Montana.

Walsh says his bill will do several things -- identify critical infrastructures he claims have become politicized and remove the president's authority to approve or deny permits for infrastructure that crosses the border. Instead, that decision would rest permanently with the state department.

Walsh is running for election this fall.  He'll likely face Republican Rep.e Steve Daines in November.

Daines slammed Walsh over his stand on the pipeline.  The statements are pointed, so we wanted to check the facts behind the release.

Daines slams Walsh in a recent release claiming Walsh was nowhere to be found when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked a vote this week to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

He also says the appointed senator only supports the pipeline with certain conditions.

We asked Walsh's aides about the statements.  They tell NBC Montana the claims are incorrect. First up, they say Walsh's bill shows he firmly supports the pipeline.

Then, there's Daines' use of the word "conditions."

We followed the link in the Daines news release and found an article in the Helena Vigilante.  In it, Walsh clarifies the conditions.  He says he wants to make sure private property rights are protected, the best possible materials used and that TransCanada hires Americans.

We presented that response to Daines' office. They countered that Walsh's bill introduced this week gives more power to unelected washington bureaucrats and Obama appointees. That's because it would put the decision making power for cross-border infrastructure projects permanently with the State Department.

Daines' recent release goes on to insist Walsh recently participated in an anti-coal rally and is calling for energy regulations that threaten nearly 2,000 jobs. We asked Walsh's aids about that claim as well. They say the rally in question wasn't anti-coal, but about climate change -- telling us that Walsh does support coal and recently worked to secure a coal tax credit for the Crow Reservation.

We're told the senator believes if climate change as a whole goes unchecked, Montana will suffer from an increase of drought, forest fires and flooding.

Walsh introduced his bill to reduce red tape for the Keystone XL pipeline in the Senate Thursday.  It has been referred to the Senate Energy Committee.