- The Washington Times
Monday, June 7, 2021

More than 60 House Republicans on Monday urged President Biden to reconsider his “baffling” decision to clear the way for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline even as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called the Russian energy project a “fait accompli.”

The letter signed by the GOP House leadership and headed by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked the administration to reverse its decision to waive sanctions and “permanently stop completion” of the Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline.

“The completion of Nord Stream 2, which was slowed during the Trump Administration, will be a gift to Putin and his efforts to increase geopolitical influence in Europe,” said the letter. “Waiving sanctions for Nord Stream 2 ‘because it’s almost completely finished’ is the wrong message to our allies and partners and undermines our credibility and global leadership.”

They pointed out that Mr. Biden opted not to fight the project even though on his first day in office, he canceled the cross-border permit for the U.S.-Canada Keystone XL pipeline.

“Furthermore, given your open hostility to domestic pipelines like the Keystone XL pipeline, which also was a top priority for our Canadian allies, it is baffling that you are willing to green-light Russia‘s Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” said the letter.

“The Keystone XL pipeline would enhance our energy security and create job opportunities for Americans. Lifting these sanctions, however, prioritizes Russian energy over American energy and Russian jobs over American jobs,” the House members noted.

The 68 House Republican signers included Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik of New York, and Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, the ranking member of the House Select Climate Committee.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced last month the lifting of sanctions imposed in 2019 by President Trump, citing the Biden administration’s “commitment to energy security in Europe” and Mr. Biden’s “pledge to rebuild relationships with our allies and partners in Europe.”

At a Monday hearing, Mr. Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the completion of the Nord Stream 2 was inevitable, given that it was about 90% finished when Mr. Biden took office.

“As a practical matter, the physical completion of the pipeline was, I think, a fait accompli,” Mr. Blinken said, adding that “we have an opportunity to make something positive out of a bad hand that we inherited when we came into office.”

Mr. Trump had argued that the 760-mile pipeline expansion would make Germany a “hostage of Russia,” and threatened sanctions on any firm that cooperated with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, ranking House Foreign Affairs Committee member, said Monday that the move would enrich Russian President Vladimir Putin and was “absolutely not in our U.S. national interests.”

The House Republicans cited the recent shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, calling it an example of “Russians looking to undermine American energy,” and climate-unfriendly Russian natural gas, which has a “life cycle greenhouse gas emissions profile 41% higher” than U.S. liquified natural gas exported to Europe.

Republicans also played the “Russian election meddling” card, arguing that for four years, “congressional Democrats obsessed over unfounded claims of Russian influence over Trump Administration policies.”

“Democrats would have quickly called for an investigation had President Trump waived sanctions on a friend of Putin that also resulted in making American resources less competitive, increased Russian global influence, transported dirtier Russian fossil fuel to our allies in Europe, and increased global greenhouse gas emissions,” said the letter.

They said the move will result in the delivery of more Russian natural gas to Europe and place “U.S. resources at a distinct competitive disadvantage, costing American jobs and reducing America’s geopolitical influence.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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