US House passes Keystone XL pipeline bill

US House passes Keystone XL pipeline bill

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] passed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act [S1 materials] Wednesday and sent the bill to President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto [NYT report] the legislation. The bill passed the House by a vote of 270-152 and passed the Senate [JURIST report] two weeks by a vote of 62-36, meaning neither chamber passed the legislation with a wide enough margin to override a presidential veto. The Nebraska legal case that had held up the proposal was resolved [JURIST report] last month, holding that the pipeline was constitutional and that construction could proceed in the state. The measure passed despite a recent suggestion [text, PDF] by the Environmental Protection Agency [official website] to the State Department that the pipeline may increase greenhouse gas emissions [USA Today report] by fostering development of Canadian tar sands projects, and the agency argues this oil will produce more greenhouse gases than other oil due to the extra energy needed to produce the oil that would feed the pipeline. If President Obama vetoes the bill, it will be the first veto of his presidency.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has generated significant controversy [JURIST report]. Expansion [WP report] of the existing Keystone pipeline would allow for the transmission of 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from the tar sand producing regions of Alberta, Canada to refining facilities on the Gulf of Mexico. TransCanada [official website], the company seeking to build the pipeline, indicates [project website] that this development would support crude oil production in the Bakken Shale formation, which lies primarily in North Dakota and Montana, and that it is crucial to energy security in the United States. Under US law, TransCanada must receive a permit from the US Department of State [official website] because the project crosses the US-Canada border. According to the State Department, Executive Order 13337 [text; PDF] grants the Secretary of State “the power to decide whether a project serves the national interest before granting a Presidential Permit.” If a presidential permit is granted construction of the project can commence.