The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would force the federal government to approve TransCanada Corp.’s controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, a move President Barack Obama has warned he will Veto.
Republicans in the House with some Democratic support pushed through the bill, that the Senate passed two weeks ago. The Senate’s road was much tougher, with the passage process drawn out as Democrats fought unsuccessfully to stall it. As the Keystone bill now now heads to Obama’s desk, it is doubtful the Senate will be able to muster the 67 votes needed to override the president’s veto.
The measure passed by a 270-152 vote, with 29 Democrats joining 241 Republicans in voting for passage and one Republican joining 151 Democrats who opposed it.
Obama has based his opposition to the pipeline on a variety of issues, including state court litigation and the U.S. State Department’s ongoing review of TransCanada’s application.
Comments from various federal agencies recently have been submitted to the State Department, including from the U.S. Department of Defense, which said it has no problems with the pipeline. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, however, said the State Department should reconsider its supplemental final environmental impact statement. And the State Department previously found that approving the pipeline would not have much of an effect on GHG emissions.
The Keystone bill dominated the first few weeks of the new Congress and prompted a wide-ranging discussion of its benefits and drawbacks. Before the Senate voted, it took up a dozen amendments to the legislation, passing only one concerning energy retrofitting for schools. Democrats had refused to end debate on the bill until all pending amendments had been voted on.
Some of the other failed amendments included removing land from consideration as wilderness areas unless Congress acts on them within a year; campaign finance disclosure requirements for companies that stand to make more than $1 million from the tar sands; removing the lesser prairie chicken from the threatened species list and speeding up the approval process for liquefied natural gas exportation to World Trade Organization members.
Keystone XL is intended to carry tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast, with a southern 485-mile portion of the proposed span running from the crude market hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, to refineries near Port Arthur, Texas, having already been approved.
The pipeline still faces a snag in South Dakota, where a project permit expired last June. TransCanada is currently pursuing a recertification of the permit but has been met with firm opposition by local environmental and community groups.