The controversial $3.3-billion Keystone XL pipeline has cleared two more hurdles, with a Nebraska court victory and House passage of a bill authorizing the project's construction, but the White House says its threat to veto the pipeline legislation still stands.

But supporters of the long-stalled pipeline hailed the Nebraska Supreme Court's Jan. 9 decision to dismiss a challenge to Republican Gov. David Heineman’s authority to approve a change in the project’s route through the state.

Construction unions and industry groups strongly back building the pipeline. They say the project would provide thousands of construction jobs.

The 1,179-mile project, to be built by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., would run from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steel City, Neb.

The Nebraska court on Jan. 9 threw out the legal challenge to the pipeline project on technical grounds, not on the merits of the challengers' legal arguments.  But the lawsuit's dismissal removes a major roadblock for the pipeline, which has been awaiting federal approval for six years.

The Obama administration has cited the pending Nebraska court case as a reason for delaying a decision on whether the project is in the nation’s best interests. 

President Obama himself has consistently said that he wants to let the State Dept.'s review process play out. But he has been critical of the project’s potential impact on climate change and the White House has said Obama would veto any legislation that prematurely prevents the State Dept. from making a decision.

Shortly after the Nebraska court decision was released, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, "Our posture and our position hasn’t changed." He told reporters, "This is a process that is still under way at the State Dept. I don't have any updates for you on that process.... [The project] is undergoing rigorous review, and we're going to wait for that review to be concluded before the president makes any decisions."

Meanwhile, House and Senate supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline are moving quickly on legislation to advance the project.

The House on Jan. 9 approved a bill authorizing the project's construction to get under way. The bill, passed by a 266-153 vote, also would deem the State Dept.’s January 2014 final supplemental environmental impact statement for the project sufficient to meet all requirements of the National Environmental Policy and Endangered Species acts, enabling it to move forward.

In the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 8 approved a bill similar to the House's. It had 60 initial cosponsors and 63 senators have said that they probably would support the measure. A two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House would be required to override a presidential veto.

Laborers' International Union of North America General President Terry O’Sullivan said in a statement: "The president should immediately resume the National Interest Determination that he needlessly suspended last year and Democrats in Congress must stop all the excuses and end the shameful politics used to block Keystone. They should join in a bipartisan manner to approve the project and create jobs.”

Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions, said: "This project has been the most analyzed and studied infrastructure project in the history of our nation.  At each juncture, the conclusions have been consistent: the project is a significant job creator; will provide an economic boost for the communities all along the proposed route and it will not substantially increase greenhouse gases."

The project’s critics argue that constructing the Keystone pipeline will encourage further oil production from Canada’s Tar Sands, which they say will contribute to climate change.

Anthony Swift, a staff attorney with the international program of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) told reporters on Jan. 6 that building the pipeline would create a “high-carbon legacy that we will have to deal with for years to come."

NRDC, the League of Conservation Voters and others have urged Obama to hold firm in his veto promise.

But Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.),  said at the Jan. 8 energy committee session, “This pipeline is already 40% constructed."

Manchin, who introduced the Keystone bill with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), added, "This line will be built; we’re just delaying the inevitable.”