House GOP Prepares Fast-Track for Keystone XL

AP PhotoThis month, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives will vote on, and likely approve, a measure that bypasses White House approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, fast-tracking construction of the controversial project.

In a memo sent Friday to fellow Republicans, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) outlined the complete "legislative agenda" for the month of May.

"We will push the administration to finally approve the Keystone pipeline delivering much needed jobs and lower energy prices for families,” he wrote. "The Obama administration is preventing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline [...]. H.R. 3, The Northern Route Approval Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Lee Terry, will ensure that the Keystone XL pipeline is built without any further delay."

The legislation would circumvent President Obama’s authority to issue the cross-border permit needed to complete Keystone’s northern leg.

According to a summary of the legislation, the Northern Route Approval Act:

...declares that a Presidential permit shall not be required for the pipeline described in the application filed on May 4, 2012, by TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to the Department of State for the Keystone XL pipeline, including the Nebraska reroute evaluated in the Final Evaluation Report issued by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in January 2013 and approved by the Nebraska governor.

Deems the final environmental impact statement issued by the Secretary of State on August 26, 2011, coupled with such Final Evaluation Report, to satisfy all requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and of the National Historic Preservation Act.

H.R. 3 passed an earlier vote by the House Energy and Commerce Committee 24-1.

Following that vote, industry watchdog group Oil Change International reported that "those voting for H.R. 3 (and thus, in favor of forcing approval of Keystone XL) today have received on average $141,501 in campaign contributions from Big Oil interests in their political careers."

According to the group's Dirty Energy Money database, since 2009, Cantor alone has received over $600,00 in contributions from Big Oil.

"Every single effort from Congress to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision has been backed by millions in dirty energy money," said the group's campaign director David Turnbull.

In March, the Senate also voted 62-37 to approve a largely symbolic measure that claimed Congressional authority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline over the Executive branch.

The House vote is expected before Congress takes a week-long Memorial Day recess. It's expected to pass with full Republican support and the backing of a number of industry-friendly Democrats.

The full text of Cantor's memo is available to read here.

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