House Sends Keystone XL Bill To Obama’s Desk

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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House lawmakers passed another bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday afternoon, marking the 11th time congressmen have voted to approve the contentious project.

Pro-pipeline Democrats joined Republicans in passing a Senate bill approving Keystone over the objections of the Obama administration. The bill now heads to the White House where it is expected to be vetoed by President Obama.

“It directly creates jobs,” Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis said on the House floor before the vote. “It’s a shot in the arm for our energy economy. It will make America more energy secure. Why the President would threaten to veto this bill is beyond rational explanation. It’s economic benefits could not be more evident.”

The White House has said it would oppose any bill that approves Keystone XL while the State Department is still conducting its review of the project. Republicans, however, argue that more than six years of reviewing the pipeline is enough time for the Obama administration to make a decision.

“This is the most federally reviewed pipeline in American history,” Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly said on the House floor Wednesday. “This is an American issue. Majority of the American people support this… It’s way past time to say yes.”

The Senate passed the Keystone bill in late January with the support of nine Democratic senators. The passage of the bill by the House means it will now head to Obama’s desk where he is likely to issue a veto.

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada applied for a presidential permit to build Keystone XL in 2008. The project would carry oil sands from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast — the most refinery-rich region of the country.

Environmentalists argue that Keystone XL would result in oil spills and exacerbate global warming as more oil is extracted from Alberta. The EPA has even criticized the pipeline, saying it would emit the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions as “7.8 coal fired power plants.”

EPA also said low oil prices mean that Keystone XL will be responsible for more carbon dioxide emissions than the State Department initially predicted in its review of the pipeline. The agency said “construction of the pipeline is projected to change the economics of oil sands development and result in increased oil sands production, and the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, over what would otherwise occur [without the pipeline].”

“There should be no more doubt that President Obama must reject the proposed pipeline once and for all,” Danielle Droitsch with the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement. “If built, it would transport Canadian tar sands oil – the dirtiest fuel on the planet – through America’s heartland, only to be refined and then shipped abroad.”

The southern leg of Keystone XL has been built and is already in operation, but the northern leg that crosses the Canadian border is still awaiting for a presidential permit from the Obama administration.

Pipeline supporters say the pipeline will have no environmental impact and increase energy independence. Supporters also argue constructing the pipeline will create thousands of jobs.

Obama, however, has said Keystone’s approval will not hinge on its economic benefits, but instead will hinge on how much the project impacts global warming. Environmentalists argue it will harm the climate while proponents say it will not.

If Obama does veto Keystone, he may be in for a rough couple of years. Republicans have put forward an energy agenda that pushes streamlined permitting for projects like Keystone XL as well as natural gas export terminals.

“Our energy realities have changed dramatically – we’ve gone from bust to boom practically overnight,” GOP Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan Ed Whitfield of Kentucky said in a statement. “Today’s energy policies are lagging far behind, and are better suited for the gas lines in the 1970s than this new era of abundance.”

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