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President Obama’s veto of legislation that would have allowed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was directed only at the bill itself and doesn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t eventually authorize construction of the project itself.
Obama told Congress on Feb. 24 that his final decision on the pipeline will rely entirely on a review by the State Department, and that any effort by lawmakers to accelerate the process “conflicts with established executive branch procedures.” In other words, because the pipeline would cross an international border, only his office, not Congress, has the jurisdiction to approve it or scrap it.
Given that reasoning, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if the president may approve the pipeline eventually, even though he has expressed reluctance so far. He replied, “That possibility still does exist. This is an ongoing review.”
Related: Keystone XL Pipeline: Why The Big Fuss?
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, issued a statement saying the pipeline would be a jobs bonanza for American workers. “It’s embarrassing when Russia and China are plowing ahead on two massive pipelines and we can’t get this one no-brainer of a project off the ground,” he said. “The president is just too close to environmental extremists to stand up for America’s workers.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said his chamber plans to hold a vote to override the veto by March 3, although neither house of Congress seems to have the two-thirds of votes needed for success. For example, the Keystone legislation passed the Senate in January with 62 votes in favor, five short of the 67 required to override a veto.
Environmental groups welcomed the veto, and are still pressing to have the president kill the Keystone XL project altogether. “This misguided Keystone XL bill, pushed by the fossil fuel industry, has met its just and expected doom,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “The president got it exactly right by vetoing it.”
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, agreed, saying in a statement that Obama had “kept his word” by vetoing the legislation. “[B]ut Republicans in Congress continued to waste everyone’s time with a bill destined to go nowhere, just to satisfy the agenda of their big oil allies.” He said he expects the president will veto the project itself once the State Department study is complete.
Related: Should President Obama Veto Keystone XL?
The 1,179-mile pipeline project would ship up to 830,000 barrels of oil sands a day from Canada to refineries on the US coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Supporters say it would create jobs in the United States and help the country become more energy independent.
Opponents counter that most of the jobs will evaporate once the pipeline is built, and that the oil it carries is meant for export, not for use in the United States. They also contend that Canadian oil sands are among the most polluting forms of crude and thus the project would contribute to climate change.
Politically, Republicans see the issue as popular among voters who view Obama as siding with radical environmentalists against the good of the US economy.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com