Obama And Congress Headed For First Confrontation Over Keystone XL Pipeline
Just one day into the new Congress, the first confrontation is already set.
As Republicans gear up for the beginning of the first time they’ve controlled both chambers of Congress since 2007, one legislative item at the top of the list will be an effort to push forward a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Indeed, a bill to do just that was introduced in the House yesterday as House Resolution 3, and the White House has already made clear that the President will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk:
WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday made it clear that President Obama would veto a bill authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting up an immediate clash with Republicans just as they assume control of Congress.
“The president threatening to veto the first bipartisan infrastructure bill of the new Congress must come as a shock to the American people who spoke loudly in November in favor of bipartisan accomplishments,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the new majority leader, said on Tuesday.
Mr. McConnell has vowed to make the Keystone bill the first measure that the new Congress sends to the president’s desk. The House is expected to pass the bill on Friday, and the Senate is expected to take up the measure next week.
For nearly four years, the Keystone pipeline has been a symbolic flash point in the political war between Republicans and Democrats over energy,climate change and jobs — even though many policy experts say the project’s impact in those areas will be small.
The legislation proposed by Republicans would take away Mr. Obama’s authority to make a decision on the pipeline, which the president has because the pipeline would cross an international border. But Mr. Obama has said he cannot make a decision until the State Department completes an environmental review, which has been held up until there is a verdict in a Nebraska court case over the route of the pipeline.
“I would not anticipate that the president would sign this legislation,” the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said on Tuesday. “There’s a well-established process that shouldn’t be changed by legislation.”
Mr. Obama’s veto would make the pipeline even more of a political issue. The 1,179-mile oil pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of petroleum a day from the oil sands of boreal forests in western Canada to oil refineries and ports on the Gulf Coast, enjoys bipartisan support in Congress as well as with the public.
Six Senate Democrats have signed on to the Republican-sponsored bill, anda poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in November found that 59 percent of Americans support the project. One of those senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, said he was “very upset, very surprised,” by the president’s threat to veto the bill. “I think it’s absolutely, totally ridiculous that they would do something like that in this period of time, when we’re just starting out,” he said.
But Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he was “pretty confident” that Republicans would still not be able to muster the 67 votes necessary to override a presidential veto. As the Senate debates the bill over the coming weeks, Mr. Schumer said, Democrats will offer up amendments designed to highlight what they see as the project’s flaws.
If Mr. Obama does veto a bill, it will not stand as his last word on the pipeline’s construction. Nonetheless, environmentalists cheered Mr. Earnest’s announcement Tuesday as a sign that the president would eventually reject the pipeline.
“It’s becoming more clear by the day that President Obama rightly recognizes this dirty and dangerous tar sands pipeline is a bad deal for our country,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
This isn’t the first legislative push we’ve seen for the Keystone pipeline, of course. Republicans made similar efforts several times after the 2010 elections but, because they only controlled the House up until yesterday, those efforts largely died in the Senate. In November, after it was clear that the Democrats had lost control of the Senate but while her own seat still remained in a precarious balance, former Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu pushed a bill to authorize the pipeline in what was an obvious effort to save her own seat from near certain defeat in the December runoff. At that point, of course, Democrats still controlled the Senate and the bill was unable to get even the requisite 60 votes to get past a Cloture Motion. Nonetheless, it was noted at the time that the bill received the votes of 14 Democrats, including nine Democrats who returned to office in the 114th Congress. This suggests that there are at least 64 votes in favor of the pipeline in the new Senate. It’s also clear that the bill to authorize the pipeline will easily pass the House on Friday. The question, of course, is whether there would be sufficient support in either chamber to override the President’s veto. In the Senate, that would mean finding an additional three Democrats to support the bill which, I suppose, is theoretically possible, although it’s hard to see from a distance who those three members might be at this point. In the House, though, Republicans would need to find 44 Democrats willing to break with their own party, and their President, on what is likely to be the first high profile confrontation between the President and the new Congress. In the immediate aftermath of the 2014 elections, there were many who speculated that the new Congress could have a veto-proof majority in favor of a Keystone XL bill if Republicans were able to add sufficient “sweeteners” to a bill to bring along enough Democratic votes in both chambers. Whether that can actually happen, of course, remains to be seen.
As for the policy itself, as I have said before there seems to me to be very little reason for the pipeline itself to not be permitted to go forward. While the concerns of environmentalists are not to be dismissed lightly, the benefits of allowing the project to go forward far outweigh the costs that opponent have continued to cite over the years. Additionally, it has become clear to me that most of the risks that the opponents of the project have raised have been hysterically overstated.For one thing, transporting the oil via pipeline is both far safe and far less environmentally taxing than transporting it via train or tractor trailer. Additionally, encouraging further development of the shale oil production areas in North Dakota and across the border in Alberta, Canad would further enhance energy independence for North America and strengthen our relationship with Canada. Additionally, while the studies disagree on the exact numbers, there’s no question that the pipeline would be a fantastic source of real economic stimulus for the states it runs through and for the nation as a whole. It could also potentially help promote additional oil shale exploration in the Upper Far West, something that has already brought astounding economic stimulus to North Dakota, which happens to have the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the nation. Adding all of this together, the decision to approve the pipeline seems like a no-brainer. Instead, the Obama Administration continues to dither and pander to the Democratic base on this issue. Can Congress finally take control of this project and force the President’s hand? It’s not clear yet, but it’s certainly worth a try.
First order of business for the new GOP Congress – ensuring Canadian profits by enabling them to ship oil out of the Americas more efficiently. As a bonus, America absorbs the environment risks.
And now we will see the truth behind the “Do nothing Congress” claim by the White House. The truth being that Harry Reid, Obama’s lap dog, held up any legislation that the white house disliked so Obama did not have to veto said legislation.
But of course, the media never allows the buck to stop at the imperial president’s desk.
@anjin-san: Yeah, it’s not like BP put up $20 Billion in to cover economic damages and restore damaged properties and affected coastal areas for its oil spill or anything.
The truth, Jack, is that the GOP Congress was a do nothing Congress, they wanted to do nothing that the president was likely to approve. There, it really is that simple.
I’m anticipating that President Obama will establish the same level of bipartisan cooperation with the new Republican Congress that they (Congressional Republicans) have afforded Obama in the preceding 6 years. I also expect this “new” GOP House, with the support of the new GOP Senate majority, to double down on legislation that has no chance of being approved by the president. Republicans these days are not the least bit pragmatic, in fact they revel in it.
On Keystone, I personally would approve the project because it runs through, for the most part, solidly Republican states.
This shows how much smarter the Democratic Party operatives are than the Republicans. Wait until oil is $50 a barrel and then veto the XL pipeline. the argument that it is needed is seen as much weaker than a few years ago. Once again, politicians are going to make long term policy based upon short term economic conditions.
@al-Ameda: The truth, Jack, is that the GOP Congress was a do nothing Congress, they wanted to do nothing that the president was likely to approve.
Right. We just waited until oil took a huge drop that literally nobody saw coming.
Do you ever take even a slight pause before saying things? Because you might want to consider it.
You do realize that even with the cleanup, the gulf spill was a catastrophe – don’t you?
Actually, the argument that Keystone is needed by America was always pretty damn weak.
The stupidity is the Republicans bringing up the issue to be vetoed when the public opinon will be indifferent with it. It costs President Obama and the Democrats in Congress nothing to be against it when gasoline is at a low point. The politics would be different if oil was $120 a barrel.
Just look at all of the New York Times articles that are gleeful that states like North Dakota will suffer due to lower oil prices. It seems like to progressives that unless one is making money on government contracts, finance, or the media that one is a loser. What is amazing is that it si the Democratic Progressives from the states with the highest gasoline prices who are against pipelines, fracking, or off shore oil exploration but are for higher fuel and carbon taxes.
The stupidest argument has always been that a pipeline on top of the Ogallala aquifer is so extremely dangerous that it cannot be permitted ever when there are already many pipelines sitting on top of the aquifer. If you really want to talk about stupid argument it is that America can have dense urban living with the generation of electricity in the U.S., without exploring for oil, and without refineries.
@anjin-san: Fill a standard tub with water, put in one teaspoon of oil. That is a direct corollary to what happened with the BP oil spill.
And as the scriptures tell us, this well-established process descended unto the firmament carved on golden plates by the Archangel of Policy himself.
Fox never told him so he has no way of knowing.
Ha…you’re understanding of the real world is non-existent.
@Jack: And you’d drink that, or let your kids play in it?
I personally don’t see this extension of the existing XL Pipeline as that big a threat, but I also don’t see it as a big plus for anyone except the oil companies involved. So why the bum’s rush to bypass the established approval process? $50 a barrel oil won’t kill the Bakken, but it sure takes off some of the urgency.
My personal, and unprovable, estimate is that Obama will approve the Phase IV extension, but not until he’s extracted some pretty good concessions from the GOPs. Why would I want the GOPs to be allowed to exempt themselves from the normal bargaining processes?
Congress also institutionalized voodoo math and shortened the life of SS…both of those things seem more important than this stupid pipeline.
Does the Keystone XL pipeline search for oil or add any refinery capacity? Please flesh this out a bit.
Show me the New York Times evidencing “glee.”
The GOP is bringing up Keystone because they have nothing else. And their stupidity is not caused by Democrats, GOP stupidity is their problem. What you are doing is blaming others for your own emotions. You’re upset that low oil prices weaken the GOP case, so you bizarrely assert some kind of Democratic plan involving either prophecy or time travel.
That’s actually quite typical of the right-wing mind where facts are enemies.
How much marine wildlife does your little bathtub experiment kill? Oh yea, none, as there is no marine wildlife in your bathtub. The gulf on the other hand…
A DEADLY TOLL: THE GULF OIL SPILL AND THE UNFOLDING WILDLIFE DISASTER
I have to say, I have never given a damn about the pipeline one way or the other. I don’t think it will be an environmental disaster, and I don’t think it will have any significant effect on the US economy. It’s a Mcguffin – a convenient device, a plot manipulation, an excuse.
This is Canadian oil going to ships on the Gulf that will take it to China. This is in effect an easement our Canadian neighbors have asked us for. It is neither Wonderful nor Terrible.
@Jack: Only if you drink the one cup of water that has the glob of oil in it. It didn’t uniformly dissolve.
Pass the Keystone XL bill.
Obama vetoes, which doesn’t matter in the long run.
Dems in Congress either vote to override or not.
The Dems explain their vote to their constituencies in 2016 with the oil prices of 2016.
the Republicans show they are getting Congress back to work, the way it is suppose to work with them passing legislation and the President signing it or not.
They also show that they are for economic development.
They show they are for cheaper energy just as the jacked up energy costs for Obama’s war on coal hit.
They show they are for cheaper energy in the US to aid in the resurgence of manufacturing outside the dense urban cesspools.
It is Canadian oil going to US refineries for processing.
How will Keystone XL result in lower cost energy for US consumers? Please be specific.
I note that you are ignoring the historic energy boom that has taken place on Obama’s watch and the fact that gas prices have plummeted.
@Jack: Obviously enough, you aren’t a Gulf shrimper.
Speaking of hysterically overstated:
Don’t play me for stupid Doug. I am smart enough to know that oil goes into a world market and that Shell, BP, etc don’t give a rat’s a$$ about our energy independence and will sell it to the highest bidder and that you of all people would defend their right to do so to your dying breath.
Also, the jobs? Give us some numbers, numbers that don’t come out of Roger Ailes or the Koch Brothers backsides. You know as well as I those have been wildly overstated too.
Also, pipelines are safer than trucks or trains, but I don’t think it matters to the people of Mayflower, Arkansas. Let the Canadians build it across their country if they want it so bad.
The so-called ‘PEOPLE’ approve of legislation that eviscerates Medicare and repeals ACA?
@C. Clavin: LOL, Cliffie: What is the color of the sky in your gerbil world?
So, after years of “studying” the bill, Obama suddenly knows he will veto it. The Liar-in-Chief has the unique talent of saying outrageous lies with a straight face.
I made the argument that the Republicans are stupid and the Democrats are smarter because the idiot Republicans are going to bring up the issue at a time when their arguments are weakest. It has been apparent for years that the Obama Administration was never going to approve the XL pipeline even though their own Environmental Impact State showed no significant impact. That the Democrats put off a final decisions until oil prices are much lower and the economy is benefiting from lower oil prices is smart. However, making a long term political decision based upon short term economic conditions is stupid.
Once again, it is very hard to believe that progressives are optomistic about the future or want to lean forward when they spend so much time and effort trying to make Americas afraid of just about everything that makes modern civilization possible.
@Jack: The human body is basically a 200 pound bag of water. How could it be possibly negatively affected if one drank a shot of methanol or acetone? Bottoms up!
@Jack: Obama is not vetoing the project, he is vetoing a bill that is taking away the federal bureaucracy authority to disapprove it. That might or not be a good idea, but if there is someone who is lying him, it’s ain’t him.
Now all you have to do is support this statement in a credible manner. Or are you simply cheerleading for XL backers?
Oil is a commodity. More getting to the market, whether processed and sold in the US or shipped overseas will reduce the price.
I fixed that for you.
Obama and the Dems banned fracking on federal oil leases. Obama and the Dems have opposed pipelines and other infrastructure to bring the oil being produced in North Dakota to market easier. And yet, the market has overcome these anti-progress actions by “Progressives” so much so that now, you want to credit the person who did all possible to impede progress for the lower fuel prices.
Look on the upside, the lower oil and natural gas prices is saving some of the pain the Obama war on coal is bringing to those who like heat in the winter. Probably not enough though, the big bills are 30 or so days from the mail boxes.
In other words, you have no data or facts, you are just parroting the sort of arguments that the babes in really shot skirts on Fox spoon feed you.
Nothing says “I’m a conservative” like using eminent domain to take private land for a foreign company.
@Console: Dayum… A million thumbs up would not be enough.
This is exactly correct, jkb
And you anjin-San should know better. You usually are not prone to to such moronic statements.
@JKB: “Obama and the Dems banned fracking on federal oil leases. Obama and the Dems have opposed pipelines and other infrastructure to bring the oil being produced in North Dakota to market easier. And yet, the market has overcome these anti-progress actions by “Progressives” so much so that now, you want to credit the person who did all possible to impede progress for the lower fuel prices.”
In other words, the Democrats took a bunch of actions and you claimed that they would lead to disaster. Instead they’ve led to exactly the conclusion you claim to be in favor of. So you are left with two choices — either start preaching the gospel of magical market unicorns flying from Galt’s Gulch Heaven to undo the wickedness of the progressives, or accept that once again you turned out to be 100% wrong.
Gosh, wonder which way you’ll go.
@superdestroyer: I know this won’t affect SuperD, but for the record the reality is that virtually no electricity in the US is generated from oil. And with very few exceptions, that is true world wide.
@anjin-san: well there would be unionized jobs to start with, that’s a good thing isn’t it? like it or not the oil will find it’s way to a refinery somewhere and rail isn’t all that safe either.
and it’s hard to listen to anyone in california spewing forth about ” the environment”- living in a water deprived state that drains the western watershed is not all that “environmentally friendly”. your concerns about the grain belt seem shallow as they’re usually just a bunch of racist hicks to you.
this is all about what obama wants to do, if he suddenly decides it’s a good thing then you’ll be slapping him on the back for his shrewd leadership….
@MarkedMan: yes, despite the war on coal and nuclear !
I’d be careful of ” literally nobody saw coming.” Given the oil economics of major producers and energy alternatives the Saudis taking a short term profit hit to shake up the cartel plus Russia was anticipated by people focused and knowledgeable in energy economics, if not the OTB debating threads. It’s about global demand. We could see a production realignment and rising prices sooner than you think unless the global economy tanks. Admittedly not as fun as pissing at each other, but that’s what is really going on.
Setting aside hysterical worries by the Sierra Club types that an asteroid might hit the pipeline and poison small mammals and rare insects, anyone know how NOT building the pipeline could be counterproductive to environmental concerns?
Would there? How many? What union?
Really? I’m concerned about the environment all over the planet. North, south, east, & west. It’s the only planet we have. We also share it with countless other species. I’m concerned about them too, the do not deserve to die because of human greed, stupidity, and short sightedness.
Hmm. I think of them more as my fellow citizens. No doubt some are racists, but there are assholes everywhere. And the fact that someone might be less sophisticated than me does not lower their value as a human being in my eyes.
Presuming that the supply remains constant enough to even justify the cost of building out the pipeline. We’re already seeing large scale pullback in new drilling and exploration, as these companies try (more and more in vain) to stabilize cash flow enough to service enormous existing debt loads in the face of operations that are increasingly break-even propositions at best.
Remember that Bakken, et al trades at a pretty steep discount relative to WTI, which is currently at $49 and likely to drop further before it bottoms out. Bakken Mar delivery has dropped closer to $34 (which will also drop further), and at that price, the economics of shale no longer remain viable. It becomes a cut capital expenditure to the bone, implement layoffs and hope you can survive long enough for a rebound. Note that this is already happening across North Dakota & Canada at a rapid (and rapidly accelerating) pace. We won’t even get into the short production lifespan of these wells.
Saudi set out to torpedo high cost producers, and it’s working – quite well. Say what you like about them, but the Saudis aren’t stupid and they do understand the economics of their market.
That rebound will eventually happen, of course, but arguably not in time to save many of these strapped producers. You’re arguing for the building of a pipeline to transport a product for which supply will be substantially reduced for the foreseeable future.
However, the same progressives that are against the XL Pipeline are also against fracking that is used to harvest natural gas. That price and availability of domestically produced natural gas has allowed utilities to switch away from coal and has made electricity cheaper in the U.S. Yet, progressive want to end fracking as the same time they want to shut down coal fired plants. The question then is how does the U.S. produce enough electricity to run the largest cities?
Look the jobs argument is a loser, and anyone who makes it a loser. We could get way more bang for the buck by upgrading the existing electricity grid, making it more efficient and more open to small alternative producers and create way more jobs. We could fix roads and bridges creating more jobs and making transportation less costly. There are about a zillion better ways to spend infrastructure money if jobs are your main concern. But lest be honest it’s not, and don’t get me started on the concern the GOP has for union jobs.
The XL pipeline will not effect US oil and gas prices one iota. Prices are set by a worldwide cartel and will go up as soon and OPEC can get their collective poop in a group. All Saudi Arabia has to do to increase prices is reach down and twirl back the tap. There is nothing on gods green earth that the US can do to change that dynamic short of invading and taking over Saudi Arabia.
Yes, domestic oil and gas production is a good thing, it’s helpful, but it needs very much to be balanced with the impact on the local environment. Hysterics on both sides of the debate are not useful.
In all this there is one const truth that needs to be addressed. the era of cheap oil, even given the current price fluctuations is over. We need to either retool our economy to run on ever increasing energy prices or broaden the base of our energy portfolio to include renewable energy sources. And whatever country is better at the former wins. That’s the deal.
And yes this doesn’t even take into account the avers effect of climate change but why derail the thread with that when there is already enough incentives to broaden the energy base.
This kinda leftish guy is skeptical of fracking because he experienced flames shooting out of his grandparents sink in NE Pennsylvania. Literally, fire blasting out of the faucet. So, yeah, I’m willing to pay more for energy, if it doesn’t mean FLAMES SHOOTING OUT OF THE %$#@&# KITCHEN SINK.
@CB: Yeah, but that’s your sink, not SuperDope’s, so why should he care?
That’s the SuperDope philosophy — as well as JKB’s and Guarneri’s and Florack’s: We don’t care if it’s happening to someone else, and there’s absolutely no way it will ever happen to me because I’m not a taker.
Plus you’re probably part Mexican or progressive and working towards a single-party state, anyway.
The question is how does a progressive reconcile their belief that every large scale source of electrical power is too hazardous to do, then how does the U.S have a modern infrastructure. Even solar or wind does not fit with the hazard avoidance philosophy since the solar farms or wind mills will be far from NYC, DC, Boston, SF and will require new high-tension power line construction.
But then again, being snarky is just easier than thinking about the issues. When one reads progressives one gets the idea that politics is just another form of fashion and progressives are just seeking the status of being the most fashionable.
What on God’s green earth are you talking about.
My position is “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be so eager to inject all of this volatile shit into the water table without understanding the true long term effects, even at the cost of high energy prices.”
My position is not “I don’t believe in energy infrastructure because it makes the ghost of Jimmy Carter cry.”
Now what possible harmful effects could tracking have?
Can any of the XL supporters here produce projections of the actual annual savings to American energy consumers that the pipeline will create? Because simply saying it will drive energy costs down is not very meaningful. Actually, it’s meaningless. What if the yearly savings for a consumer are $0.22 a year?
News report today: “Stablized oil prices cheered by investors”. Translation: get ready for $3.75 gallon gas once again.
$2 a gallon gas has been a big relief for the working, middle class people. Too bad the investors and oil/government complex doesn’t see it that way.
“If oil went to $30 a barrel, we would still be making a ton of money” Oil company executive.
Break even is probably closer to 80-85.
Yes, the Saudis are not stupid, and are engineering the price decline.
But, in the last paragraph, was care is it of yours if producers want to commit capital? Further, like the Saudis the oil company is not stupid, yet wants to do this. Almost makes you think there is another dynamic going on, eh?
See and think about comment at 17:12. Expand your thought process.
@superdestroyer: “The question is how does a progressive reconcile their belief that every large scale source of electrical power is too hazardous to do, then how does the U.S have a modern infrastructure.”
That’s a question if you feel like arguing a straw man… or you’ve never actually met another human being.
There is no one in any position of leadership anywhere who holds this moron opinion you ascribe to “progressives.” So it’s not “the question” — it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
@superdestroyer: “But then again, being snarky is just easier than thinking about the issues.”
Actually, thinking about the issues is not hard at all, if you know anything. So I can see why it causes problems for you.
As for the snark — post something that’s worth treating seriously, and you’ll be treated seriously.
On to something else, are you a fan of 45rpm albums? I have a 45rpm copy of Rumors on the way…
The entire point was that the situation makes it increasingly unlikely that Transcanada’s bankers will be amenable to extending that required capital. Throw in the draconian conditions imposed on the company by PHMSA in light of its current construction deficiencies (conditions which increase its cost of construction dramatically) and it becomes even less likely. The company is already floating in debt, and those investment bankers – well, they aren’t stupid either.
@Console: That many times over is why I oppose the pipeline.