The House has approved a measure to authorize building the Keystone XL pipeline, but the 270-152 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority required to override a promised presidential veto.
House approval on Feb. 11 came nearly two weeks after the Senate approved the bill on Jan. 29. Supporters of the measure in each chamber don't appear to have enough votes to override a veto.
The pipeline’s advocates are putting pressure on President Obama to sign the legislation, which authorizes construction to begin on the $3.3-billion pipeline to transport tar sands oil from Hardisty, Alberta, through Steele City, Neb.
But pipeline backers say they are resigned to the likelihood that he will veto the bill, and are looking for alternative vehicles to move the pipeline project forward.
American Council of Engineering Companies President and CEO David Raymond says, “Even if this bill does not have enough in it to gain the president’s approval, hopefully Congress at some point will offer a broader measure that includesKeystone that will have a realistic chance for passage.”
Construction industry groups say that the pipeline enjoys bipartisan support and should be built.
Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) General President Terry O’Sullivan says, “Even if Congress had the votes to override a veto, we suspect the president would discover some other excuse to put politics first and keep the pipeline’s construction careers and energy locked out of reach.”
LIUNA supports the project, saying that it will create thousands of construction jobs. The president has said he wants the process for approving large pipeline projects that cross international lines to play itself out.
Secretary of State John Kerry is reviewing whether the project is in the national interest. He will make a recommendation to Obama, who will then make a decision.
In a Feb. 2 letter to Kerry, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Cynthia Giles said that some of the assumptions in the State Dept.’s final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS), issued in April 2014, may need to be revisited in light of lower oil prices.
In that environmental review, the State Dept. concluded that lower oil prices could shift the economics of building the pipeline, making it more likely to push tar sands development in the place of less-polluting alternatives.
“Given recent large declines in oil prices and the uncertainty of oil price projections, the additional low-price scenario included in the final SEIS should be given additional weight during decision making, due to the potential implications of lower oil prices on project impacts, especially greenhouse gas emissions,” Giles wrote.
Environmental groups cheered EPA’s assessment and called on the president to reject the pipeline.
But the pipeline's advocates argue that the State Dept.'s ultimate conclusion in the final SEIS was that the project would not contribute significantly to climate change, and they say that the project would help the economy by creating thousands of jobs.