Senate Passes Keystone Pipeline Bill; Backers Weigh Options in Event of Veto

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By Ari Natter

Jan. 29 — The Senate passed legislation (S. 1) to require approval of the Keystone pipeline Jan. 29 on a 62-36 vote, five short of the votes needed to override a presidential veto.

Senate backers are now considering their next steps in the event that President Barack Obama makes good on his promise to veto the bill bypassing his administration's review of the pipeline to connect oil sands production in Canada with refiners in Texas.

Nine Democrats voted in favor of the legislation, which was authored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Among the options Hoeven and other backers are considering are attaching the Keystone bill to another piece of legislation the president might not feel so keen to veto.

“Next steps are we will consult with the House and determine whether we have to go to conference or whether they will take the bill” as is, Hoeven told reporters after the Senate voted for cloture on the bill earlier in the day. “If he doesn't [sign the bill] then we will bring it back and look to attach it to something.”

Hoeven said legislative options to attach the Keystone bill include a broader energy bill or an appropriations measure. “There will be other opportunities,” he said.

Senate passage of the bill came after two and half weeks of debate on the measure and approximately 40 votes on amendments.

Among the amendments approved to the bill was a measure by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would help schools learn more easily about federal programs and incentives to boost their energy efficiency, and an amendment by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to loosen energy efficiency for grid-enabled water heaters and promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

The House, which passed legislation (H.R. 3) identical to the underlying Senate bill, has yet to decide whether it will take up and pass the Senate bill or conference the two bills, according to a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at