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Obama Vetoes Bill Approving Keystone XL Pipeline

GOP to schedule an override vote by March 3

As promised, without much fanfare, President Barak Obama vetoed a bill that would have approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline shortly after it landed on his desk today.

Obama in the Oval OfficeOfficial White House Photo by Pete Souza"Through this bill the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest, the president wrote in his veto message.

"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," Obama wrote in his veto message to the Senate.

"Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest," he added.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest had indicated earlier today that the president would veto the bill because the State Department is still reviewing whether it would serve the United States’ national interests to approve the 1,179-mile pipeline — which would transport 830,000 barrels of heavy crude from the tar sands mines of Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas.

Environmentalists and other Keystone opponents, of course, are delighted by the president's swift move, even though it came as no surprise.

“President Obama said he’d veto this attack on his executive authority, and he kept his word. That’s what he said he’d do from the start, but 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, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.

“President Obama just stood up with farmers, ranchers and Tribal Nations to protect our land and water, said Jane Kleeb executive director of Bold Nebraska, a trans-partisan coalition of conservatives and progressives, farmers and environmentalists opposed to the pipeline. The President's veto comes at a time when Republicans will do anything Big Oil asks, even if it means putting our families at-risk of water pollution. We call upon the President to use that same courage and leadership by rejecting the KXL permit once and for all.”

Billionaire hedge fund manager turned avid climate activist, Tom Steyer too, urged Obama to reject the final permit for the pipeline project (which is still pending, despite the current political drama over the bill). “From the 2016 budget, to the Clean Power Plan, to the historic climate deal with China, President Obama has outlined a path to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future that would protect our environment and grow our economy,” he said. “Now, to truly solidify his legacy on this issue, President Obama must protect the health and safety of the next generation and choose to move America forward — not backwards — by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Keystone advocates, on the other hand, made the usual comments about a missed opportunity to create jobs and bolster the economy. (House Speaker John Boehner  called the veto a "national embarrassment.")

“President Obama made it clear that he is willing to put partisan politics and special interests before the American people,” Luke Hilgemann, CEO of the conservative group Americans For Prosperity said in a statement. “Both Chambers of Congress and the overwhelming majority of Americans want the thousands of shovel-ready jobs and billions in economic growth that this project would bring. "

It’s unlikely that the Congress will be able to override the veto. The Senate needs 67 votes to overcome a presidential veto, but has only 63 senators backing it, and the House too, needs a two-thirds majority for the same, which it doesn’t have. However, Republicans have indicated that they will schedule a veto override vote by March 3.



Maureen Nandini Mitra, Editor, Earth Island Journal.Maureen Nandini Mitra photo
In addition to her work at the Journal, Maureen writes for several other magazines and online publications in the US and India. A journalism graduate from Columbia University, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Public Press, The New Internationalist, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, The Caravan and Down to Earth.

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