On January 29, the Senate passed S. 1, the first bill of the 114th Congress, approving the Keystone XL Pipeline by a 62–36 margin, including nine Democratic votes. The House passed its version of a Keystone XL bill earlier this month, leaving the chambers to sort out differences and send an agreed-upon version to President Obama.
The White House again promised a veto of the bipartisan bill that many have praised as the product of a new Congress that allows for free-flowing debate. The Obama Administration’s excuses over the past six years have all collapsed one by one:
- Jobs. Obama questioned the project’s value as a job creator, criticizing the number of temporary jobs the pipeline would create. However, the southern portion of the pipeline, which did not need a presidential permit, has already created some 5,000 jobs and injected $5.7 billion into the Oklahoma and Texas economies. The fact that the majority of these jobs are temporary is a moot point—construction jobs are by nature temporary.
- Environmental concerns. Facing pressure from extreme environmentalists who turned Keystone XL into an election issue, Obama delayed a decision on the pipeline in 2011, citing environmental concerns, among others. The president’s own State Department has completed four extensive environmental studies of the project and concluded each time that the pipeline would not harm the environment, including plants, animals, water resources, and most importantly humans. A pipeline is the best mode of transporting oil to prevent injuries and fatalities. Opponents of the pipeline insist that rejecting a permit is an important part of Obama’s “legacy as a global leader on climate.” But again, the State Department studies concluded that building the pipeline would have negligible impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Canada will develop the oil regardless; the only question is whether Americans want to take part in the economic opportunity.
- Nebraska Supreme Court. The White House said it would not make a decision until a related case before the Nebraska Supreme Court was decided. The Nebraska court ruled on January 9: It did not strike down a law that allowed the governor to expedite approval of a new route for the pipeline that was created in response to Obama’s rejection of the pipeline route in 2012. The court’s decision was immediately followed by yet another vote in the House to approve the pipeline.
- Letting the process play out. Last fall, Obama said he would not make a decision on Keystone in order “to let that process play out,” referring to the State Department’s last environmental impact statement. That latest reason is about to dry up as the State Department has finished its review and given eight federal agencies until February 2 to review the environmental impact statement. Secretary Kerry will then make a determination on the national interest of the project, giving the agencies 15 more days to comment before a final decision by the President.
Responding to the Senate’s passage of S. 1, Senator Chuck Schumer (D–NY) said: “Time and time again Republicans pledge their allegiance to foreign special interests above the American middle class.” The Keystone XL Pipeline permit decision should have never come to this point of political circus. Approving the pipeline should not be and is not about defeating or caving in to Big Oil interests; it is good energy policy that does not dish out special treatment and declares that America is open for business.