Pipe Dreams: Republicans Vote to Fast Track Keystone XL, White House to Veto

On Tuesday, the White House released a statement declaring that a bill — H.R. 3, by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) to fast track a portion of the Keystone XL pipeline through the state of Nebraska — would be vetoed by the President. The measure will likely pass the Republican controlled House. The announcement doesn't focus on the politics but instead on process, claiming that the "bill is unnecessary because the Department of State is working diligently to complete the permit decision process for the Keystone XL pipeline."


According to the statement, H.R. 3, would,


"(1) declare that a Presidential Permit is not required for the Keystone XL crude oil, cross-border pipeline, including the Nebraska reroute evaluated by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality;
(2) deem that the final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Department of State on August 26, 2011, satisfies all National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act requirements; and,
(3) deem that Secretary of the Interior actions satisfy Endangered Species Act requirements enabling the needed right-of-way."  

In a talking points memo obtained by the Huffington Post, Organizing For America reaffirms its position in support of the President's, stating that, "OFA supports and respects the process as it is currently underway." The organization prefers to work on changing the conversation on climate change and clean energy more generally.

That seems to be smart, at least politically, because according to Pew, two-thirds of Americans want to see the pipeline built, which is up from a Gallup poll taken last year. The political problem with the pipeline, even though it is expected to only create 35 permanent jobs and most of the oil will be shipped overseas, is that it fits neatly into the narrative about "Middle East" energy independence. In reality, it only delays how soon the U.S. itself will be energy independent.

The President promised an "all of the above" approach to energy, so instead of making his stand in tar sands he's going to let the process unfold. Having the lengthy permitting process and opportunity to veto its subjugation from executive approval allows him to show his diligence to the environmental community and gives them more time to organize against the pipeline. Some groups, like Bold Nebraska, are organizing at the county level around property and water rights issues. There is also a film, Above All Else, being made about a landowner who did a tree-sit on his property in Texas.  

OFA says that it will "work with local communities to switch to clean energy and promote the transition to renewable energy in cities and states nationwide," "expose climate deniers as extreme and dangerous," and probably most important, "ask those in the middle, 'What's your plan?'" The third part is crucial, and until the answer is no longer "build the pipeline," the most you will likely hear from the Administration until the next phase of permitting is mum.

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