Obama moves to veto controversial Keystone XL bill

Obama has vetoed a bill seeking to speed up the Keystone XL approval process. Photo credit: Matt Wansley via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

US President Barack Obama, has vetoed a bill that had sought to override his authority and approve the controversial pipeline Keystone XL.

The veto was hardly a surprise, Obama had promised he would veto any bill aiming to speed up the Keystone XL approval process.

The pipeline, if built, would transport crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast, and would carry 800,000 barrels of heavy petroleum oil a day. Oil from tar sands are more polluted and have a 17% higher carbon footprint than conventional oil and have therefore earned the label of unconventional oil.

In a brief statement Obama explained his veto ‘’The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously. But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people. And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.’’

The Keystone XL pipeline has caused fierce opposition since it was first proposed six years ago, and has become the defining environmental fight in the US. Opponents of the pipeline say it should be rejected due to the threat of climate change, while supporters, which primarily means Big Oil and climate deniers, say rejecting the pipeline is anti-business and a job- killer policy.

One of the biggest critics of the pipeline is former NASA Scientist, James Hansen, who has stated that if the project were to go ahead it would be game over for the climate.

The climate grassroots organisation 350, who has campaigned against the pipeline has released the following statement via their Executive Director, May Boeve: ‘’This veto is conclusive proof that activism works. After four years of rallies, marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience, we’re thrilled to see President Obama take an important first step by vetoing this love letter to Big Oil. As the President himself has argued, Keystone XL would worsen climate change, threaten the safety of farmers and landowners in America’s heartland, and create essentially no long-term jobs—and all so that a Canadian oil company gets to ship dirty tar sands to the rest of the world. Now it’s time for the President to show he’s serious about his climate legacy by moving on to step two: rejecting this pipeline once and for all.’’

A similar message comes from Greenpeace USA, with Executive Director, Annie Leonard stating: “In vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama is showing that he’s listened to the people, not the polluters. Just this week we’ve seen corporate interests exposed for spending over a million dollars on the science of climate denial. Enough is enough. The State Department needs to put the final nail in the coffin of Keystone XL, so we can focus on the real opportunity ahead: building America’s new, clean energy economy.”

This latest delay of the pipeline project did not offer any clues as to whether or not Obama eventually would approve or reject it. There is no deadline on when he should make a decision
on it, in fact he could leave it for the next President. But it is expected that Republicans, who now control both chambers of the Congress, will continue sponsoring bills that seek to approve the project, and insert it into other legislation.

Obama has said that he would not make a decision before all the legal hurdles and review processes were out of the way. Last month, a Nebraska court cleared the legal hurdles for construction of the pipeline, and this month final reviews of the pipeline by eight federal agencies were completed.

So the path for  approval or rejection of the project seems to be on the horizon, and both sides are eagerly anticipating a decision on the long running Keystone XL saga. 

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