February 25, 2015 Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport / The New York Times & Robert Reich / MoveOn.org
President Obama on Tuesday rejected an attempt by lawmakers to force his hand on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, using his veto pen to sweep aside one of the first major challenges to his authority by the new Republican Congress. President Obama says he'll veto the latest attempt by Congress to push through the Keystone XL pipeline -- which is the right thing to do. But he hasn't yet committed to rejecting this dangerous proposal outright. That's where we come in.
How Keystone XL Got (So) Political As Washington debates Keystone XL, here's how the 1,179-mile pipeline became so political. Video by Carrie Halperin and Emily B. Hager on Publish Date January 8, 2015.
Obama Vetoes Bill Pushing Pipeline Approval Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport / The New York Times
WASHINGTON (February 24, 2015) -- President Obama on Tuesday rejected an attempt by lawmakers to force his hand on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, using his veto pen to sweep aside one of the first major challenges to his authority by the new Republican Congress.
With no fanfare and a 104-word letter to the Senate, Mr. Obama vetoed legislation to authorize construction of a 1,179-mile pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels of heavy petroleum a day from the oil sands of Alberta to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast.
In exercising the unique power of the Oval Office for only the third time since his election in 2008, Mr. Obama accused lawmakers of seeking to circumvent the administration's approval process for the pipeline by cutting short "consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest."
By rejecting the legislation, Mr. Obama retains the right to make a final judgment on the pipeline on his own timeline. But he did little to calm the political debate over Keystone, which has become a symbol of the continuing struggle between environmentalists and conservatives.
Backers of the pipeline denounced Mr. Obama's actions and vowed to keep fighting for its construction.
The House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, called the president's veto "a national embarrassment" and accused Mr. Obama of being "too close to environmental extremists" and "too invested in left-fringe politics."
Environmentalists quickly hailed the decision, which they said clearly indicated Mr. Obama's intention to reject the pipeline's construction. The White House has said the president will decide whether to allow the pipeline when all of the environmental reviews are completed in the coming weeks.
"Republicans in Congress continued to waste everyone's time with a bill destined to go nowhere, just to satisfy the agenda of their big oil allies," said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. "The president has all the evidence he needs to reject Keystone XL now, and we are confident that he will."
Since 2011, the proposed Keystone pipeline has emerged as a broader symbol of the partisan political clash over energy, climate change and the economy.
Most energy policy experts say the project will have a minimal impact on jobs and climate. But Republicans insist that the pipeline will increase employment by linking the United States to an energy supply from a friendly neighbor. Environmentalists say it will contribute to ecological destruction and damaging climate change.
Mr. Obama has hinted that he thinks both sides have inflated their arguments, but he has not said what he will decide.
In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Obama urged lawmakers to move past the pipeline debate, calling for passage of a comprehensive infrastructure plan. "Let's set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline," he said.
Republican leaders had promised to use the veto, which was expected, to denounce Mr. Obama as a partisan obstructionist. They made good on that promise minutes after the president's veto message was read on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.
"The fact he vetoed the bipartisan Keystone Pipeline in private shows how out of step he is with the priorities of the American people, who overwhelmingly support this vital jobs and infrastructure project," Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.
In recent months, the environmental activists -- who have spent years marching, protesting and getting arrested outside the White House in their quest to persuade Mr. Obama to reject the project -- have said they are increasingly optimistic that their efforts will succeed.
"Hopefully the ongoing legislative charade has strengthened his commitment to do the right thing," said Bill McKibben, a founder of the group 350.org, which has led the campaign to urge Mr. Obama to reject the pipeline.
The debate began in 2008, when the TransCanada Corporation applied for a permit to construct the pipeline. The State Department is required to determine whether the pipeline is in the national interest, but the last word on whether the project will go forward ultimately rests with the president.
Mr. Obama has delayed making that decision until all the legal and environmental reviews of the process are completed. He has said a critical factor in his decision will be whether the project contributes to climate change.
Last year, an 11-volume environmental impact review by the State Department concluded that oil extracted from the Canadian oil sands produced about 17 percent more carbon pollution than conventionally extracted oil.
But the review said the pipeline was unlikely to contribute to a significant increase in planet-warming greenhouse gases because the fuel would probably be extracted from the oil sands and sold with or without construction of the pipeline.
This month, environmentalists pointed to a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency that they said proved that the pipeline could add to greenhouse gases.
The question of whether to build the pipeline comes as Mr. Obama hopes to make climate change policy a cornerstone of his legacy. This summer, the E.P.A. is expected to issue sweeping regulations to cut greenhouse gas pollution from power plants, a move experts say would have vastly more impact on the nation's carbon footprint than construction of the Keystone pipeline.
In December, world leaders hope to sign a global United Nations accord in Paris that would commit every nation in the world to enacting plans to reduce its rates of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. In the coming months, countries are expected to begin putting forward those policies for cutting carbon emissions.
While the Keystone pipeline is not expected to be part of the United States climate change plan, a public presidential decision on the project could be interpreted as a message about Mr. Obama's symbolic commitment to the issue of climate change.
Until that decision is made, however, both sides of the Keystone fight are stepping up their tactics. Environmental groups are planning more marches and White House petitions, while Republicans in Congress are looking for ways to bring the Keystone measure back to Mr. Obama's desk.
Senator John Hoeven, Republican of North Dakota, who sponsored the Keystone bill, said he would consider adding language requiring construction of the pipeline to other legislation, such as spending bills to fund federal agencies, which could make a veto far more politically risky for Mr. Obama.
A final decision by the president could come soon. Last month, a court in Nebraska reached a verdict in a case about the pipeline's route through the state, clearing the way for construction. And this month, final reviews of the pipeline by eight federal agencies were completed.
However, Mr. Obama is under no legal obligation to make a final decision, and there is no official timetable for a decision. He could approve or deny the project at any time -- or leave the decision to the next president.
The President Should Not Only Veto the
Keystone XL Pipeline But Stop It Permanently Robert Reich / MoveOn.org
February 20, 2015) -- President Obama says he'll veto the latest attempt by Congress to push through the Keystone XL pipeline -- which is the right thing to do. But he hasn't yet committed to rejecting this dangerous proposal outright. That's where we come in.
The proposed pipeline would run through much of our nation's heartland, and the costs and risks could be a disaster for our climate and our communities. President Obama should stop Keystone XL for good -- and do it now.
Watch this short video to see what I mean:
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