Joni Ernst and her family along with the Vice President.

Joni Ernst and her family along with the Vice President after she was sworn in.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says the bill authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline is one of the first pieces of legislation she is working as she begins her term in Washington, D.C.

“I do believe that this bipartisan legislation is a great step forward and it is an engine of opportunity to grow a better and stronger economy,” Ernst says. “And it really does show, it demonstrates that Republicans and Democrats can work together, certainly work together to find ways to make American stronger. And I believe this bill does that.”

Oil prices have been in a free-falll in recent weeks with gasoline prices following. Ernst says some lawmakers my see that as a reason to have less urgency to pass the bill to bring oil into the U.S. from Canada. “We do have lower prices at the pump right now — which I am thankful for — however, as we look at the Keystone XL pipeline, this does provide infrastructure for the future,” Ernst says.

The Republican from Red Oak says they need to look at the total impact of the pipeline. “We can’t be short-sighted, because how long are these gas prices going to remain low? That is a question we don’t know. But we need to look long-term at opportunities that exist, and part of the infrastructure is the Keystone XL pipeline,” according to Ernst. She is hopeful they can gain enough bipartisan support to pass the bill in both the House and Senate and possibly override a presidential veto is necessary.

Ernst was asked about the ongoing debate in Iowa on water quality and nitrates in the water. “This is something that needs to be addressed at the lowest possible level and that starts with the communities and it does start with our farmers and our conservation techniques,” Ernst says. The former state senator says there are already some voluntary programs in place and they have shown success.

“I do think that a number of areas have seen reduced nitrate levels across the state of Iowa, so I do think that those programs work, they do need to be implemented,” Ernst says. “A lot of that funding comes through the state, we do have other funding sources through the federal government too, but again I do think those communities and the state need to figure out what is appropriate for that type of community.”

Ernst says she was recently talking with representatives of a southwest Iowa community that is trying a program. “It’s a very small rural community, and what they are doing is a type of filtration process through a wetland area,” Ernst explains. “And that was just implemented not all that long ago, so I am anxious to see what their water levels are looking like with the numbers and types of contaminants.” Ernst made her comments during a teleconference with reporters.