Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has denied approval of a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, saying he wants more information.But on Friday, Republicans reached across the aisle and gained bi-partisan approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, stating the project is environmentally safe and will lead to more jobs and energy independence.
Despite the U.S. House passing the bill on November 14, Obama said he wants the information-gathering process to continue. He indicated during a November 5 press conference that he needs more evidence of the project’s economic benefits and environmental safety.
“Ultimately, is this going to be good for the American people?,” Obama asked. “Is it going to be good for their pocketbook? Is it going to actually create jobs? Is it actually going to reduce gas prices that have been coming down? And is it going to be, on net, something that doesn’t increase climate change that we’re going to have to grapple with?”
Republicans countered that those questions have been answered, and 31 Democrats agreed. The bill (H.R.5682) passed 252-161.Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn (SC-6), a liberal ally of Obama’s, has reportedly said multiple times Republicans will try to impeach Obama, so his yes vote on Keystone is a notable break from the president. As of this writing, Clyburn’s website did not contain a press release on the subject.
Democrat Mark Veasey (TX-33) also crossed party lines, although he advocates for oil-free energy on his website.Calling for an expansion of renewable energy sources, Veasey said, “Our national goal should be to expand the use of these resources so we can one day have a carbon-neutral energy supply.”However, the economy still needs fossil fuels today, and as a benefit, construction of the Keystone pipeline will create 42,000 jobs, Veasey said in a press release after voting in favor of the project.
“As our economy continues to climb out of the Great Recession, creating and sustaining good paying jobs should be our highest priority in Congress,” he said.The jobs Veasey refers to could be created in nine states – Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas – during construction of the 1,179 mile line, according to the website of TransCanada, which specializes in energy infrastructure.
Nevertheless, Obama downplayed the significance of what others, like fellow Democrat Veasey, have said. Obama said Keystone XL is just another part of energy independence.Obama said, because of the increase in oil and natural gas production within the U.S., “We are closer to energy independence than we’ve ever been before — or at least as we’ve been in decades.”
He noted the U.S. is importing less foreign oil, has a 100-year supply of natural gas, has a growing clean energy industry, and is the energy envy of Asia and Europe.“So our energy sector is booming. And I’m happy to engage Republicans with additional ideas for how we can enhance that,” he said.
While the Republican-led bill states the final environmental impact statement issued on Keystone XL by the secretary of state in January 2014 fully satisfies the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, House Majority Leader John Boehner (OH-8) said the project is just as important to the country’s overall prosperity.
“This is a vote to lower energy costs for families and create more American jobs,” he said. “Finding common ground won’t always be easy, but for the sake of America’s workers, we hope the president will sign this bipartisan bill without any further delay.”
The U.S. Senate has to approve the Keystone XL bill, and Obama has to sign it for it to take effect.