President Obama vetoed a bill authorizing construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline on Tuesday, following through on his threat to do so shortly after Republicans secured control of both chambers of Congress.
In a written statement to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Obama said that Congress had, through the passage of S-1, attempted "to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.
"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."
It was the third veto of Obama's presidency and his first since 2010.
The Senate passed S-1 by a 62-36 vote on Jan. 29. The House of Representatives followed suit on Feb. 11, with a 270-152 vote (see Shale Daily, Feb. 12; Jan. 29; Jan. 22). According to the floor log for the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to proceed with a possible attempt at overriding the veto no later than March 3.
Although some Democrats in both chambers of Congress support the bill, Republicans do not appear to have enough votes to override a possible veto. An override would require a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers -- 290 in the House and 67 in the Senate, assuming every lawmaker is present and votes.
The bill authorizes TransCanada Corp. to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Alberta to the Gulf Coast and transport 830,000 b/d to U.S. refineries, including 100,000 b/d from the Bakken Shale (see Shale Daily, May 7, 2012).
Republicans voiced outrage over the veto but weren't surprised by the move because Obama had threatened such a move last month (see Shale Daily, Jan. 9; Jan. 6).
"The president's veto of our Keystone XL pipeline approval legislation is not surprising, but it is unfortunate as his veto stands in contradiction to the will of the American people," Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), the bill's sponsor, said Tuesday. "This bill has passed both chambers of Congress and the American public has expressed its support for the project in poll after poll. Every state along the pipeline's route has approved the project, and a series of environmental reviews completed over the course of six years have all concluded that the project will have no significant environmental impact. Yet, the president vetoed the bill because it 'cut short' his review process, which has already gone more than six years.
"The president's veto is bad news for Americans and good news for OPEC [the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries]. We are in a competition with OPEC for global market share and energy leadership. Whenever the president makes it harder to produce and transport energy here at home and work with our close ally Canada, he makes it easier for OPEC to keep us dependent on their oil.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called the veto "a national embarrassment."
"It's embarrassing when Russia and China are plowing ahead on two massive pipelines and we can't get this one no-brainer of a project off the ground," Boehner said. "The president is just too close to environmental extremists to stand up for America's workers. He's too invested in left-fringe politics to do what presidents are called on to do, and that's put the national interest first."
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said the fight over Keystone XL wasn't over.
"Why did Congress force the president to waste perfectly good ink reasserting his authority to make this decision?" Brune wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "Certainly not because they were looking out for the best interests of the American people, who would be accepting all of the many risks associated with Keystone without seeing any appreciable benefits.
"...tar sands supporters in Congress will find it hard to tune out the fossil fuel interests that want to see Canada's oilsands mined to the utmost. After all, the biggest foreign leaseholder in Canada's oilsands is none other than the Koch brothers. And they didn't become among the wealthiest people on the planet by taking 'no' for an answer graciously. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."