President Barack Obama has vetoed the transcontinental Keystone XL pipeline, a project that’s become more about politics than the limited energy benefits it would provide.
Republicans, long proponents of the project stretching from the tar sands patch in Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, contend it would be a job creator. That claim is backed up by Obama’s own administration: A 2013 State Department study found it would employ 4,200 people during the construction phase but only 35 full time after completion. But despite State’s findings — that TransCanada’s long-delayed project would have minimal environmental impact and nine Democrats support it — the White House has steadfastly refused to back it.
“[B]ecause 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,” Obama said in a veto statement released Tuesday afternoon.
It’s the third time the president has used this executive authority as president. The State Department could override the president’s decision by approving the project on its own.
Obama’s action put him at odds with industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute, whose President Jack Gerard called the veto “politics as usual here in Washington” in a statement Tuesday. Labor unions including the Laborers’ International Union of North America have also criticized Obama for his failure to support the plan.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the National Resource Defense Council oppose the $7 billion, 2,148-mile-long pipeline, which would ship a dirty crude oil that emits more greenhouse gases than regular oil.
The project would have a nominal impact on the American energy sector. In the six years since the project was first delayed, the United States has ramped up crude shipments by railroad, minimizing the importance of the pipe. TransCanada has also started construction of an $11 billion pipeline from western Canada to the Atlantic, making the Gulf of Mexico export route less vital.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would schedule a vote to override the veto by March 3. But he’s unlikely to garner the two-third majority in either the House or Senate needed to reverse Obama’s decision.
Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan