Climate

House Votes To Force Approval Of The Keystone XL Pipeline

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.

Better get your veto stamp ready, President Obama.

The House voted 270-152 Wednesday to pass legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline, the 1,179-mile cross-country project that would ship tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast of the U.S.

The bill will now be sent to President Obama, who is expected to veto it. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at the beginning of January that the president “wouldn’t sign” any Congressional legislation on Keystone XL that makes it to his desk.

“The president has been pretty clear that he does not think circumventing a well-established process for evaluating these projects is the right thing for Congress,” Earnest said.

If the president does veto the bill, it will be the third time in his career that he’s used his veto authority.

Right now, it doesn’t look like the House or Senate would get the two-thirds majority that it would take to override the veto. Congressional Republicans vowed last year to make Keystone XL their first priority in 2015.

The bill came with five amendments, which were whittled down from the more than 40 that the Senate voted on over the course of a few weeks. These include a provision stating that ‘climate change is real and not a hoax’ and two that aim to boost energy efficiency in the U.S.

If Obama does veto the legislation, he’ll still have to make an executive decision on Keystone XL once the State Department issues its decision on whether or not the project is in the national interest of the United States. Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, more than 90 scientists and economists sent a letter to President Obama and the State Department calling on them to reject the pipeline.

“The contribution of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to climate change is real and important, especially given the commitment of the United States and other world leaders to stay within two degrees Celsius of global warming,” the letter’s authors write.

The Environmental Protection Agency appears to agree with that assessment. Earlier this month, the EPA wrote a letter to the State Department, saying that Keystone XL would lead to the emissions of 1.3 to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, an amount comparable to the emissions from 6 million passenger vehicles. Obama said in 2013 that he thought the project would only be in the country’s national interest if it didn’t “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” so the EPA’s statements on carbon pollution could be critical to the president’s final decision on Keystone.

“For us the veto isn’t the end all. It is step one. What we are far more interested in is, moving past that, and getting him to the place where he is moving toward a rejection,” Karthik Ganapathy, communications director for 350.org, told the Hill.