House approves construction of Keystone XL – for the ninth time

House approves construction of Keystone XL – for the ninth time
The US House of Representatives voted for a bill to begin construction of Keystone XL, a controversial $7-billion, 1,200-mile oil pipeline between Canada and Nebraska. The project had repeatedly failed to get sufficient support in the Senate.

"This will create other economic activity. This will ripple out through the economy," boasted Republican Bill Cassidy, the sponsor of the House bill, following a 252-161 vote.

But the timing of the vote is more to do with a Louisiana Senate race, than with any immediate prospects of construction.
A mirror bill will go to the Senate on Tuesday, proposed by Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. Landrieu and Cassidy face a December 6 run-off for a Louisiana seat, and the incumbent Democrat wanted to bolster her economic credentials, by passing a bill that is popular with local voters, whose part of the Keystone pipeline is already complete, and awaiting connection with Canadian tar sand oil that will fill it to capacity.

U.S. Sen candidate and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy (Sean Gardner / Getty Images / AFP)

After Landrieu sponsored her bill, Cassidy put in his own initiative in the lower House.

Now, Landrieu has to try and persuade 60 Senate members to vote for the potentially-hazardous pipeline, which has proved impossible in the past. Considering the current Senate will be replaced by a more pro-Republican one in January, it would have been easier to secure the votes then.

But Landrieu decided to push ahead.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (Stacy Revere / Getty Images / AFP)

"I believe it is time to act," said Landrieu, saying that she is currently running a local election ad “talking about how passionate I am about creating energy jobs.''

But whatever the outcome of the vote on Tuesday, the co-sponsor of the Senate bill, North Dakota Republican John Hoeven, said that pushing the project through, after six years of deliberations and delays, is now only a matter of time.

"All along, we anticipated that we'll win on this issue, because the American public wants Keystone XL approved. If we don't get 60 votes on Tuesday, in the new Congress, we will have 60 votes."

Currently, there are 45 Republicans in the Senate, and if Landrieu is beaten by favorite Cassidy, there will be 54 from next year. All the Republicans will likely vote for the Keystone expansion, and more than six Democrats have publicly said they will endorse the pipeline.

If it passes both filters, the bill would be subject to approval from President Barack Obama, who has the power to veto it.

The president, whose core voters are some of the most vocal opponents of Keystone, would prefer that the proposal would await the completion of a State Department review, which has been postponed due to a lawsuit from environmentalists who say that government officials have been withholding information during their investigation.

"I don't think we should short-circuit that process," insisted the US President in a press conference in Myanmar, where he is on an official visit.

Earlier State Department findings claimed that the project, overseen by Canadian company Trans Canada, would contribute $3.4 billion and more than 40,000 jobs to the US over the two-year construction period. Advocates of the pipeline also say that it will make the supply of oil between the Alberta tar sands and the US refinery network more efficient, as much of the oil intended for the pipeline is already traveling across the US in tanker trucks.

Opponents of the pipeline claim that it is encouraging the production of environmentally-unfriendly heavy oil from the Alberta tar sands. They also allege that it carries a risk of spills and water contamination as it crosses some of the country’s most notable waterways, such as the Missouri River and Yellowstone, as well as reservoirs, including the Ogallala Aquifer.