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January 12, 2015

Call Your Senator This Week To Tell Them To Pass The Keystone XL Pipeline

Last Friday the U.S. House passed H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which would allow construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline to move forward without approval from the Obama administration. The bill passed on a bipartisan 266 to 153 with 28 Democrats voting for it. (See how your member of Congress voted here.) 

The Democratic support is significant since, also last week, President Barack Obama said for the first time that he would veto the legislation. In its veto threat, the White House said the president would not sign the bill because it “circumvent(s) longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross-border pipelines serve the national interest.” Unfortunately, even with more than two dozen Democratic supporters in the House, the lower chamber is still well short of the 290 votes it would need to overcome a presidential veto. 

It is also still unclear whether there are the 60 votes needed in the U.S. Senate to overcome either a Democratic filibuster or a presidential veto. After the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed the bill out of committee last Thursday, the full U.S. Senate began debate on H.R. 3 Friday. The chamber is expected to take a cloture vote to move forward with debate on the bill Monday evening. 

MSCI members are asked to call their senators today to ask them to support H.R. 3 on the floor this week and in the event the president vetoes it. Members should also consider calling their House members to ask for their support in the event of a veto. (Contact information for House members and senators is available here. The Keystone pipeline will create hundreds of jobs, but another point to make to lawmakers: the U.S. State Department has said pipelines like Keystone are 20 times safer than using rails to transport oil, which means approval of the pipeline could prevent 2,957 injuries and save 434 lives. We also ask that you remind lawmakers the State Department has determined the pipeline will not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. 

Meanwhile, Washington wasn’t the only city Keystone supporters and opponents were watching last week. In another important development, last Friday the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the state law that approved the path the pipeline will take through the state. President Obama had said he was waiting for the court to rule before issuing his final decision on the project. The State Department had also halted an additional review of the project pending the outcome in Nebraska. That review can restart now, but, according to National Journal (subscription required), a State Department official said there's no timeline for completing it. The unnamed staff member explained, “We now plan to request that agencies complete their consideration of whether the proposed project serves the national interest and provide their views to the State Department … Agencies will be given a reasonable and sufficient period to complete their analysis and submit their documents to us.”