House Votes To Approve Keystone XL Pipeline — For The 10th Time

CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez

President Barack Obama arriving at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla. TransCanada is the company vying for approval of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The House of Representatives has voted 266-153 to pass legislation approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, marking the 10th time the lower house has OK’d construction of the controversial project.

Friday’s vote precedes an upcoming Senate vote which will also likely approve the controversial pipeline, eventually sending the bill to President Obama’s desk. The White House has already stated that Obama would veto the legislation.

The vote also comes just hours after Nebraska’s highest court effectively confirmed that the 1,700-mile pipeline has a legal route through the state — though the court left it open for the route to be challenged in court again.

Though the bill to approve Keystone XL passed the House easily and with a large majority, it fell short of achieving enough votes for a possible override of Obama’s veto. To override, the House would have needed a two-thirds, or 66 percent, majority vote. The bill received only 63 percent.

The Republican-led House has long had the votes to pass legislation approving the pipeline, which would carry Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of the United States. But until the 114th Congress was sworn in on Tuesday, it didn’t much matter — the 113th Congress’ Senate was controlled by Democrats, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was not keen to let the bill come to the floor for a vote. At the end of 2014, Reid did allow a vote on Keystone XL in the Senate, and it failed.

With both chambers of the new Congress now controlled by Republicans, passing Keystone XL has become a priority. Indeed, Republican leaders have confirmed that it will be the first legislation sent to President Obama’s desk in 2015.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a group opposed to pipeline construction, called the House’s latest approval vote “meaningless.”

“President Obama has already committed to vetoing any legislation that forces approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and the bill passed the House with too few votes to override that veto,” the group said in a statement. “Rather than wasting time on meaningless legislation to do the bidding of one foreign oil company, Congress should be getting to the real work of taking action on climate and transitioning the United States to a clean energy future.”

The Senate is expected to begin debate on its version of the bill on Monday.