The House voted 241-175 — largely along party lines — to pass legislation that would speed up the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline, despite threats of a veto by President Barack Obama.
The bill, sponsored by Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry, would not require the company building the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada, to receive a cross-border permit from the White House in order to complete the northern section of the pipeline that crosses the U.S.-Canadian border.
“It’s time, after almost five years, to get the Keystone pipeline working and the people working,” Terry said on the House floor on Wednesday.
The bill would essentially take the decision out of the president’s hands, which the White House opposes.
“Because H.R. 3 seeks to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross-border pipelines are in the national interest by removing the Presidential Permitting requirement for the Keystone XL pipeline project, if presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto this bill,” the White House said in a statement.
The Obama administration has sent mixed messages on the issue. The Department of State’s latest pipeline review found that the pipeline would have little impact on the environment and little impact on climate change.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency called the State Department’s review “insufficient.” The EPA argued that the State Department’s review did not look hard enough at the environmental and global warming impacts of moving tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S.
The EPA also argued the review “does not provide a detailed analysis of the Keystone Corridor Alternative routes, which would parallel the existing Keystone Pipeline and likely further reduce potential environmental impacts to groundwater resources.”
Pipeline supporters argue that the pipeline would help increase U.S. energy security, help the economy, and create jobs.
“Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is long overdue. This project creates thousands of high-paying, high-skilled jobs, and puts America on a long-term path to energy independence,” said Democrats Utah Rep. Jim Matheson and Georgia Rep. John Barrow in a statement.
However, environmentalists argue that the pipeline will accelerate global warming and oil spills along the pipeline could cause environmental damage.
“The need to take concrete steps to address climate change has never been greater – and the approval of Keystone XL would take the nation in the wrong direction by replacing conventional crude with even more carbon intensive tar sands as well as by driving rapid expansion of the tar sands production,” wrote Anthony Swift, an attorney at the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC).
“The agenda has been taken over by the left-wing extremists,” Terry said, referring to environmental groups like the NRDC.
“Some are trying to claim that this bill is an unprecedented attempt to rush the process,” said Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton on the House floor. “In truth, the only thing that is unprecedented is the lengthy delays we have already encountered for a project that has been the subject of over 15,000 pages of federal environmental review and found to be safe.”
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