Obama Vetoes Keystone Oil Pipeline Bill, but the Project’s Not Dead Yet [UPDATED]

Congress fails to force the president’s hand, but he must soon make a decision on the controversial plan.

(Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Feb 24, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

UPDATED Feb. 25, 2015—12:35 p.m. ET

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Feb. 24 that he intends to schedule an attempt to override President Obama's veto of the Keystone pipeline legislation by March 3.

President Obama on Tuesday followed through on his promise to veto a bill forcing the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

If built, the pipeline would carry oil 1,180 miles from Canada’s tar sands across several U.S. states to shipping ports on the Gulf of Mexico.

“Because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures,” the president said in a statement, “and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest—including our security, safety, and environment—it has earned my veto.”

Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives passed the legislation with the supermajorities needed to override a veto, so it is unlikely that Congress will be able to undo the president’s action.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hinted that the Senate may take a run at overturning the veto. He accused Obama of catering to the pipeline opposition in the environmental movement. “Even though the President has yielded to powerful special interests, this veto doesn’t end the debate,” he said in a statement. “Americans should know that the new Congress won’t stop pursuing good ideas, including this one.”

Barring a successful Senate override, the pipeline’s fate rests in the hands of the White House. Obama has stated that he is waiting for a final assessment of its economic merits and environmental consequences by the State Department, which has jurisdiction over projects that cross the U.S. border.

The president has said that he’ll approve the Keystone pipeline only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” the leading cause of climate change.

The State Department’s early environmental analysis stated that the Keystone pipeline wouldn’t intensify climate change. But last year that finding was debunked by the Stockholm Environment Institute.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also believes otherwise. In an early-February letter, the EPA asked the State Department to revisit its environmental assessment of the pipeline’s impact on global warming. The agency stated that building the Keystone pipeline would result in significant carbon pollution—as much as the emissions from eight coal-fired power plants or an additional 5.7 million cars on the road.

The State Department hasn’t said when it will make its final report to the president. At a Feb. 2 press conference, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the standard review process “needs to be honored, not circumvented,” reported The Hill.

Senators with close ties to the oil industry fast-tracked legislation to approve the Keystone pipeline in January. It was the first bill introduced on the first day the Republican-controlled Senate met this year. On Jan. 29 the Senate voted 62–36 to build the pipeline, and the House passed its bill on Feb. 11, with a vote of 270–152.

The votes fell largely along party lines, with 29 House Democrats and nine Senate Democrats joining Republicans in approving the bill.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., was the only Republican member of Congress to oppose Keystone in either chamber.