Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill; Senate Republicans Plan Override Vote

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By Ari Natter

Feb. 24 — President Barack Obama vetoed legislation Feb. 24 that would authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, saying the bill “earned my veto” because it would circumvent the role of the executive branch in ensuring the cross-border project is in the national interest.

The legislation (S. 1), sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), would circumvent an ongoing Obama administration review of the $8 billion pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas and has become a symbol of the administration's commitment to addressing climate change. A review of the project, which needs a presidential permit because it crosses an international boundary, is ongoing at the State Department.

In its message to the Senate announcing the veto, the White House said, “Because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures 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.”

Despite the veto, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Feb. 24 “it certainly is possible” Obama would decide to approve the project.

“The president will keep an open mind as the State Department considers the wide range of impacts that this pipeline could have on the country, both positive and negative,” Earnest said. “Once the [State Department] review has been completed, there would not be a significant delay in announcing the results of that review and ultimately making a decision on this project.”

Senate Plans Override Vote 

The Senate is planning a vote to override the veto, Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 24.

The vote, expected to occur by March 3, comes despite the Senate falling five votes short of the 67 needed to override a presidential veto and is part of a Republican strategy to put Democrats on the record as voting against the project, which proponents have said will create thousands of jobs and increase domestic energy security.

“Even though the President has yielded to powerful special interests, this veto doesn’t end the debate,” McConnell said in a statement. “Americans should know that the new Congress won’t stop pursuing good ideas, including this one.”

Meanwhile, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Interior Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting “all reports, recommendations, letters, and comments received by the State Department from the advising agencies” related to the project's permit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ari Natter in Washington at anatter@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

The White House veto announcement is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=smiy-9u2sf9.

The House oversight committee letter to Secretary of State Kerry is available at http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2015-02-24-JEC-CML-to-Kerry-State-Keystone-XL-Pipeline-due-3-9.pdf.