Sen. Roach touts ‘oil sands’ for jobs, national security

State Sen. Pam Roach stood before a small audience, explaining the need to pull thick, gooey oil from Canadian sands to protect America’s national interests.

She had been invited to a Jan. 5 meeting of the Bonney Lake Patriots, a group of hard-core conservatives who host monthly meetings at the Cedar Ridge Retirement Center in Bonney Lake.

The phrase “oil sand” hasn’t received much mention in Washington state, but has become something of a hot-button issue in Washington, D.C. Roach has latched onto the political hot potato since being invited by the American Legislative Exchange Council to tour northern Alberta, Canada, where sandy regions are saturated with a think gel that is extracted from sand and processed into crude oil.

Roach was one of nine legislators invited on the trip by the ALEC, a politically conservative, nonprofit, nationwide organization.

At the heart of the issue is the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project, which would built transmission lines from the Alberta oil fields to points in the United States. The project has an advertised cost of perhaps $7 billion and would stretch more than 2,000 miles to major American oil refineries, most notably those on the Gulf Coast.

The fight has been drawn along political lines. Democrats have been wary, citing potential environmental nightmares; Republicans have pushed for the pipeline, citing the jobs it would create and a decreased need for Middle Eastern oil.

Roach told her audience the province of Alberta holds the world’s third-largest oil reserve and Canadian interests are looking for buyers. While the United States debates the Keystone issue, she said, Canada has found a willing buyer in China.

“They don’t understand why the U.S. doesn’t want their oil,” she said, noting her belief that it’s better to do business with a friendly border country than with Middle East interests.

“It’s like the Obama Administration doesn’t want oil independence,” she said.

Roach dismissed the environmental concerns, stating the idea of building a major pipeline is nothing new. Potential hazards would exist, she said, but any problems could be solved.

“It’s not like Keystone XL would be the first pipeline,” she said.

The issue had reached a stalemate in the nation’s capitol, where the president had two sides pushing for a decision, each lobbying for a different direction. He had announced a decision would be delayed until 2013.

Not content to wait, Republicans inserted a Keystone approval provision into the hotly-contested payroll tax extension. After some bargaining, the provision evolved into a 60-day window the president now faces.


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