Keystone XL makes way through legislative pipeline |

Keystone XL makes way through legislative pipeline

Nikki Work
Fence Post Reporter/Designer

On their first day back in session, senators John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced legislation to approve the long-contested Keystone XL pipeline. The bill is the first piece of legislation brought to the floor of the 114th Congress, according to a press release from Hoeven’s office.

“Working with Canada we can achieve true North American energy security and also help our allies,” Hoeven said in a release. “For us to continue to produce more energy and compete in the global market we need more pipelines to move crude at the lowest cost and in the safest and most environmentally friendly way. That means that pipelines like the Keystone XL are in the vital national interest of our country. The project will create thousands of jobs, boost our economy, reduce our reliance on Middle Eastern oil and make our country more secure.”

With 60 senators co-sponsoring the legislation and 63 who have claimed support, the bipartisan-supported bill is predicted to pass.

“I am encouraged that the Keystone XL pipeline project will come to a vote on the Senate floor as one of the first pieces of legislation for the 114th Congress,” Manchin said. “We have everything to gain by building this pipeline, especially since it would help create thousands of jobs right here at home and limit our dependence on foreign oil. Every state – including West Virginia – would benefit economically from this activity. It is my sincere hope that we can once and for all move forward with this important project.”

According to the Associated Press, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama is not expected to sign any legislation on Keystone XL. In a press briefing on Jan. 5, where the possibility of the legislation was discussed, Earnest said there were many factors to be discussed, including the controversy in Nebraska regarding the pipeline’s route.

According to an NPR report on Jan. 9, the Nebraska Supreme Court voted on the constitutionality of a law allowing the state’s governor to approve the pipeline’s path and the rights of the landowners who challenged the law to do so. The vote was split 4-3 in supporting these claims that the law was indeed unconstitutional and the landowners did have the right to challenge its constitutionality. However, consitutional law in Nebraska requires a 5-7 supermajority to declare a law unconstitutional, so this decision and the decision of a lower court before it, were nullified, giving the green light for the Keystone XL pipeline’s route through the state.

He said at the time of the Jan. 5 press briefing, he was not prepared to issue a veto threat and the administration was looking at multiple factors impacting the decision. In a press conference Jan. 6, he confirmed the president would veto the current Keystone XL legislation.

“This piece of legislation is not altogether different than legislation that was introduced in the last Congress, and you’ll recall that we put out a Statement of Administration position indicating that the president would have vetoed had that bill passed the previous Congress,” Earnest said in the conference. “I can confirm for you that if this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn’t sign it either, and that’s because there is already a well-established process in place to consider whether or not infrastructure projects like this are in the best interest of the country.”

The 63 predicted votes in the Senate would fall four votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority needed to overturn a presidential veto.

“His decision to veto such a commonsense bill prior to the unfolding of regular congressional order and the offering of amendments appears premature and does little to mitigate the congressional gridlock,” Manchin said in a prepared statement in response to the veto announcement. “It is time that we address the critical issues of moving America toward energy independence and fostering job growth and economic prosperity.”

The House of Representatives voted 266-153 to approve identical legislation on Jan. 9. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. According to the a press release from the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, this was the 10th House vote to push the project forward.

“Given the broad, bipartisan majorities Keystone XL approval legislation is likely to receive in both chambers of Congress this week, President Obama’s veto threat is disappointing,” Cramer said. “It is time for the President to stop putting the interests of his environmental extremist friends above those of the American people.”

Newly re-elected Speaker of the House John Boehner also issued a statement in response to the veto threat, saying the president “is hopelessly out of touch and has no plans to listen ot the American people or champion their priorities.”

Bold Nebraska, an organization that has been vocal against the pipeline and which campaigns for alternative voices in the Nebraska political sphere, released a statement affirming the president’s position.

“Farmers and ranchers along the route thank Pres. Obama for standing up to the climate deniers in Congress by stating he will veto the risky Keystone XL bill,” said Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb. “Republicans’ first order of business is to write a law for one foreign corporation. That is unacceptable and shows Republicans are not up to the job of governing. The presidential veto is both warranted and very welcomed news as it’s one more day the Sandhills, the Ogallala Aquifer and property rights are protected.”

For more on the Keystone XL pipeline, click here.

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