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WASHINGTON – The Senate’s new foreign relations chairman has stepped forward to give President Obama another excuse to keep delaying approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat whose New Jersey home is about 1,000 miles away from where the pipeline would be built, reluctantly allowed a hearing last week on the project, but said he believes the pipeline is “not in the national interest.” It would connect Canadian tar sands crude oil to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

In a linked development, it appears that if Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is the Republican nominee for governor, energy extraction in the realm of hydrofracking for natural gas will be an issue for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking re-election.

While gas prices and related electricity bills have yo-yoed all over New York, Cuomo has kicked the decision back and forth between two state agencies for more than three years.

Unless Cuomo moves soon to permit fracking, he’s going to have to answer the question as to why New Yorkers are so smart and why Pennsylvania and Ohio are so dumb. Both states are reaping the job growth, taxes and other economic benefits of tapping the fabulously rich Marcellus shale lode of low-polluting natural gas while New York sits. If Cuomo stands pat, the state will sink further into a state of dependence on government handouts.

Cuomo’s Hamlet act on fracking and Obama’s stall on Keystone are related. Both men are under the spell of the environmental left, whose catechism essentially claims the earth will suffocate if either the pipeline is built or fracking is allowed in job-starved New York.

Neither claim is true.

The increased production of hydrocarbons, which contribute to the circulation of manufactured greenhouse gases, from these developments will have no appreciable effect on the environment. A long, expensive independent study into Keystone paid for by the U.S. State Department affirmed this.

This last is what has transported many environmentalists to righteous frenzy. The State Department study removes the last scientific barrier to a recommendation by Secretary of State John Kerry that Keystone be built.

It would move the United States toward energy independence. That, and the increased production of natural gas, would put the United States in position to help Europe, which gets 30 percent of its energy from Russia. Particularly Eastern and Central European nations that are being intimidated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nothing on the horizon will stop China and India, or Russia, by the way, from creating more smokestack pollution. U.S. exports of coal have increased 300 percent since 2007. Canada and China (in Canada) are rapidly developing their crude sources. If it doesn’t come to the United States via Keystone, Canada will sell it to others, including China. That’s been stated by Canadian authorities.

The attacks on the prospect of American energy independence – and jobs – are coming from all corners. The Alliance for the Great Lakes is circulating a warning that possible shipments of Canadian crude on the Great Lakes are a threat. Well, other than passenger ships, every other cargo carried over the last three centuries has been some level of threat.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a Manhattan Democrat, is criticizing the State Department study that says Keystone is OK. The study doesn’t conform to federal laws, he says. This is the state AG. His office says his beef is legal, not ideological. What motivates Schneiderman, they said, is a federal report that says, “Canadian tar sands oil transport would be responsible for 14 times more climate change pollution as the State of New York emits in one single year.”

email: dturner@buffnews.com