President Barack Obama will veto legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the White House said Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Obama’s position has not changed and that he still believes Congress should not circumvent a well- established process for evaluating these types of projects.
‘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, that in previous administrations, when pipeline projects like this were considered, they were evaluated by the State Department and other experts in the administration to reach a determination about whether or not that project was in the national interest,” Earnest said. “Now the thing that is impeding a final conclusion about this pipeline is the fact that the pipeline route has not even been finalized yet and that there continues to be an outstanding question about the route of the pipeline through one part of Nebraska. And that's related to an ongoing legal matter in Nebraska. Once that is resolved, that should speed the completion of the evaluation of that project.”
The Obama administration has delayed making a decision on the pipeline, most recently citing the need to wait for a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling on the route. A court decision is expected soon. In the meantime the issue sits with Obama’s State Department, which needs to decide whether the pipeline is in the national interest because it crosses the border with Canada. A State Department environmental review downplayed the environmental effects of the pipeline.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, who was elected majority leader Tuesday, said Keystone is a top priority now that Republicans have taken control of the Senate.
“The president threatening to veto the first bipartisan infrastructure bill of the new Congress must come as a shock to the American people who spoke loudly in November in favor of bipartisan accomplishments,” McConnell, R-Ky. said in a statement. “It’s interesting to note that the President declined to issue a veto threat last month when a Democrat senator was trying to save her job over the exact same Keystone bill. Once again the President is standing in the way of a shovel-ready jobs project that would help thousands of Americans find work.”
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives already has passed legislation to approve the pipeline and is expected to do so again, paving the way for Senate action.
“On a bipartisan basis, the American people overwhelmingly support building the Keystone XL pipeline,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “After years of manufacturing every possible excuse, today President Obama was finally straight with the them about where he truly stands. His answer is no to more American infrastructure, no to more American energy, and no to more American jobs....This is simply another sign that President Obama is hopelessly out of touch and has no plans to listen to the American people or champion their priorities.”
Polls show a significant majority of Americans support construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring crude oil from the Canadian oil sands in Alberta to American refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Plans for the pipeline are fiercely opposed by environmentalists, because tapping the thick Alberta crude would produce more planet-warming gases than conventional oil. Environmental groups said they would press Obama to veto approval of the pipeline to fulfill his pledge to combat climate change.
The White House threatened to veto a previous congressional attempt to demand approval of Keystone, saying it would interfere with the State Department’s process of determining whether construction of the pipeline would be good for the country.
If Obama does veto the bill, the Republicans could attempt to get enough votes to override the veto by making deals to get more Democrats on board and including it as part of other legislation that members of Congress believe must pass.