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Obama Vetoes Keystone Pipeline

Energy: Congress will attempt override move but likely lacks votes

by Glenn Hess
February 27, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 9

Credit: AP
Activists urge Obama to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill.
Photo of Activists urge Obama to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill.
Credit: AP
Activists urge Obama to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill.

President Barack Obama this week vetoed legislation to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the measure would “circumvent” an ongoing Administration review that will determine whether the project would be beneficial to the U.S.

The bill (S. 1) would have authorized the construction of a 1,179-mile pipeline to transport 800,000 barrels of heavy petroleum a day from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries and ports along the Gulf Coast.

The legislation was strongly backed by the energy and chemical industries. The American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents the nation’s largest chemical companies, cited Keystone as “a prime example of new energy infrastructure that will be needed to support U.S. manufacturing growth.”

The chemical industry also would have benefited from provisions in the bill to increase the use of products to boost energy efficiency, such as window and roofing coatings and insulation.

Obama said he vetoed the measure because it would “circumvent long-standing and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.” The State Department is currently reviewing the project and will make a recommendation to the White House about the pipeline. That assessment is taking into account environmental, economic, and national security factors.

But there is no timetable for the assessment, or for Obama to make a final decision. He could approve or deny a permit for the project at any time—or leave the decision to the next president.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared, “This veto doesn’t end the debate” over Keystone. But an attempt to override the President’s veto isn’t likely to succeed. The bill passed the Senate 62-36, well short of the two-thirds majority needed for Keystone supporters to prevail over Obama.

Environmental activists, who argue that the pipeline would increase U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to climate change, predict Obama will nix the pipeline. “This veto makes us more confident than ever that the President will reject the permit itself once and for all,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.



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