WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2014 – The House of Representatives today passed a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline, but the fate of the legislation in the Senate – and in the White House, should it get that far – remains uncertain.
The House bill was approved 252-161, with solid support from Republicans, who have touted the project’s job-creating potential, and backing from 31 Democrats, despite objections from environmentalists who say extracting the oil the pipeline would carry would increase pollution and transporting it through the center of the U.S. would risk damaging spills.
The bill, HR 5682, would bypass the need for White House approval of TransCanada Corp.'s $8 billion project, a process which has now gone on for more than six years. The 1,179 mile, 36-inch diameter pipeline would carry heavy crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas to refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas.
The Senate could vote on a companion bill as early as Tuesday. It’s being sponsored by Energy Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a Democrat, who’s hoping her support of the legislation will help her in her Dec. 6 runoff election with Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who’s sponsoring the House bill.
Speaking on the House floor before today’s vote, Cassidy touted the job-creating potential for the pipeline, noting that the Obama administration has said 40,000 people would be employed in the construction of the project over a one-to-two year period. Additionally, Keystone would create 20,000 manufacturing jobs and 118,000 “spinoff” jobs in refineries, petrochemical companies and elsewhere.
“It’s time to pass this energy infrastructure project to bring jobs and greater energy security to America,” said Cassidy.
Laundrieu said she’s confident that there’s enough support from Senate Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to end debate on the bill and send it to the White House. But as of yesterday it appeared that she still needed one or two more Democrats to assure the measure’s passage.
It is also unclear what would happen to the bill if it should reach the White House. President Obama has threatened to veto Keystone legislation in the past, but he has not said what he would do with this specific measure. Earlier this week during his trip to Asia he had this to say about the pipeline:
“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf [Coast], where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices,” the president said, according to ABC News. “If my Republican friends want to focus on what’s good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy. I’m happy to have that conversation.”
Obama has also said he does not want to interfere with an ongoing State Department review of the project. That review is required because the pipeline crosses an international border.
A legal challenge to the pipeline route is also being heard by a Nebraska court. A ruling on that case is possible within the next few weeks.
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