February 17, 2012
This Week in Environmental News: GOP-heavy House Approves Keystone XL Pipeline

keystone pipeline

A set of pipes for use in the Keystone XL Pipeline’s Nebraska route. (Photo: shannonpatrick17 | Flicker Creative Commons)

by Jillian Sederholm

House lawmakers voted 237-187 to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline and expand offshore drilling as part of a larger energy bill. The proposed pipeline would stretch 1,661 miles to carry Canadian crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico passing through six U.S. states

It was no shock that the Republican-led House passed the measure yesterday. The pipeline project has been used as political fodder for both Democrats and Republicans. President Barack Obama rejected the project and threatened to veto a GOP proposal attaching the controversial project to his payroll tax cut bill. Republican lawmakers have long touted the projects potential to create a large number of jobs, but just how many jobs it would lead to has been a point of contention for both politicians and the media. 

The day before the vote, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) addressed the House to urge opposition of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Rush accused pipeline proponents of not caring about landowners, saying that approval would lead to private land seized by eminent domain. ”We’re elected here to protect them (landowners), not let a big oil company, Keystone and TransCanada, come in and just take their land, take their land,” Rush adamantly stated. This lead to a shouting match with Republicans who argued that it was each state’s right to decide on the legal process for handling such land issues. 

That same day, a group of Nobel peace prize winners praised President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline in a letter to European leaders. “Even oil-obsessed America refused to take the gamble and shelved plans for a tar sands pipeline this winter,” Franziska Achterberg, EU transport policy adviser at Greenpeace, told Reuters.

Stop TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

Protestors lead a march against the Keystone XL Pipeline on Nov. 2. President Obama rejected the project the following month. (Photo: Tar Sands Action group | Flickr Creative Commons)

Environmentalists are concerned that the pipeline will lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and an increased chance of an oil spill leading to contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer which lies under much of the pipeline’s route. Protestors — led by the Tar Sands Action group — have put heavy pressure on the President to thwart the project or risk losing their votes.

The next step for the Keystone legislation is the Senate, where passage will be difficult. The 47 Senate Republicans will need to find at least 13 Democrats to join them in moving it forward.