President Barack Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline bill today nearly two weeks after the House approved the Senate-passed bipartisan legislation. This is Obama’s third time to use the power of a presidential veto since he has been in office.
President Obama maintains that Congress is circumventing the approval process for the Keystone pipeline project and has downplayed its job creation potential. In his veto message to the Senate, Obama said, "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 bill would have authorized TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the US Gulf Coast, transporting an additional 830,000 b/d to US refineries, which includes 100,000 b/d from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.
TransCanada quickly responded to President Obama’s veto in a statement stating it is standing firm in its efforts to move forward with the project. “TransCanada remains fully committed to Keystone XL despite today’s veto of bipartisan legislation in support of the project. The facts show Keystone XL passes the national interest determination test and President Obama’s climate test. Without Keystone XL, U.S. refineries are forced to use other methods of transportation to get the oil they need for creating products we all rely on every day. This means higher GHG emissions and relying on methods of transportation that are not as safe or as efficient as pipelines, according to the U.S. Department of State."
In addition, TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry which refers to a February 2015 IHS study which suggest that the environmental concerns around the project should be mitigated. In the letter, Girling said, "The IHS report finds that overall growth in production from the Canadian oil sands is expected to continue to increase without regard to whether the Project is built. Consistent with the findings in the Final SEIS, the IHS study finds that, absent new pipeline capacity, alternate transportation routes, and particularly transportation by rail, will still result in the growth of oil sands imports into the United States."
Girling continued, "IHS further reiterates that the impact on GHG emissions resulting from importing and processing additional Canadian oil sands production would be negligible. The refining market in the US Gulf Coast area is optimized for heavy sour crude oils. Those refineries are supplied by heavy oils from Mexico, Venezuela, and Canada. As IHS has previously found, increased imports of Canadian oil sands production would simply take the place of other heavy crude imports with a similar carbon intensity."
Republican response to the veto was also swift. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, quickly criticized President Obama’s veto of the bill. She said, “President Obama said no to job creation, no to new energy infrastructure, no to affordable energy, and no to greater North American energy security. With his veto of the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama turned his back on hard-working Americans, hard-working families, and the businesses that grow our nation’s economy. ”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to schedule a veto override vote by March 3. However, it is unlikely that he will garner the two-thirds majority votes that are needed to overturn the veto.
McConnell commented, “It’s extremely disappointing that President Obama vetoed a bipartisan bill that would support thousands of good jobs and pump billions of dollars into the economy. It passed both houses of Congress with strong bipartisan support and it’s a priority for organized labor as well. Even the President’s own State Department says construction of this jobs and infrastructure project would result in only minimal environmental impact.”
The $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline project has been under review for more than six years, with multiple environmental reviews completed to date.