Quantcast

Keystone XL Debate to Take Center Stage in New Congress

Energy

It looks like the Keystone XL pipeline will be making headlines again when Congress reconvenes next week—and three Democratic congressmen are getting a head start in laying down the gauntlet.

These protest signs may be needed very soon again, as Congress prepares to make Keystone XL pipeline approval its first order of business in 2015.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

When Senate approval of the pipeline was defeated by one vote in November, incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed to make approving the pipeline his first order of business when the new Senate with its Republican majority opened its session. And new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Lisa Murkowski followed through, announced that Keystone XL will be her committee's first item of business when it meets next week.

On the other side of Congress, the House has voted in the past to approve the pipeline and appears poised to do so again—so quickly, in fact, that three Democrats sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner this week, urging that the House follow the full process of vetting a bill. Representatives Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Raul Grijalva of Arizona, ranking members of the three committees that have jurisdiction over the pipeline—Transportation and Infrastructure, Energy and Commerce, and Natural Resources—asked Boehner not to bypass the committee process to bring an immediate floor vote.

“It is our understanding that you may schedule the House of Representatives to vote on a bill to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline during the first two weeks of the 114th Congress," they wrote. "Given the magnitude of this issue, we urge you not to bypass the committee process and regular order for consideration of this controversial legislation. This past November, 61 new members of Congress were elected by the American people to represent their interests in the House.  These new members, and in fact all members of the House, should have the opportunity to consider, debate and propose their own ideas on this legislation through committee hearings and markups, before it is scheduled for House floor consideration. While past congresses have debated legislation to approve the pipeline, this new Congress has not had the opportunity to be a part of the process."

The three congressmen said they believe that new information has emerged since the previous pipeline hearings in the House, pointing to the dramatic changes in U.S. crude oil production and the steep drop in global oil prices and the uncertainty about the future of production of the Canadian tar sands oil the pipeline is intended to carry.

"Members of Congress should have an opportunity to learn more about these changed circumstances as they weigh the costs and benefits of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline," they said.

They pointed out that there is a case pending in the Nebraska Supreme Court that could impact where the pipeline can be built.

They wrote, "In February 2014, the Nebraska District Court declared that the Nebraska Governor’s Keystone XL pipeline siting decision violated the Nebraska Constitution and, as such, the proposed route was null and void. The Nebraska Supreme Court is considering this issue on appeal and is expected to issue its decision in the coming weeks. We hope that we can all agree that Members of Congress deserve to know the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline prior to casting a vote on whether to approve it."

They also referred to an op-ed that House majority leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in the Washington Post five months ago, promising a commitment to the committee process and regular order in the new Congress and to working across the aisle, saying "a sense of mutual respect is necessary for constructive dialogue.” They called on him to follow through on the promise.

"New and returning Members of Congress should have the right to debate the short- and long-term effects of approving a project that could reverse the carbon pollution reductions and environmental and safety improvements that we have worked so hard to achieve in the United States," they wrote. "We urge you to use this opportunity to recommit to the value of thoughtful deliberation."

President Obama has made statements suggesting he would most likely veto legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Breaking: Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

Cumulative Climate Impacts of Tar Sands Pipelines

Obama Tells Colbert: Keystone XL Could Be 'Disastrous'

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A dire new report issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found that the climate crisis is on a worrying trajectory as the crisis's hallmarks — sea level rise, ice loss and extreme weather — all increased over the last five years, which will end as the warmest five-year period on record.

Read More Show Less
Line of soldiers walking. Pexels

By Peter Gleick

War is a miserable thing. It kills and maims soldiers and civilians. It destroys infrastructure, cultures and communities. It worsens poverty and development challenges. And it damages and cripples vital ecological and environmental resources.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
People take part in a ceremony to mark the 'death' of the Pizol glacier on Sept. 22. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

Hundreds of activists gathered in the Swiss Alps on Sunday to mourn the loss of Pizol, a glacier that has steadily retreated over the last decade as temperatures have warmed the mountain tops, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Luis Alfonso de Alba Gongora, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for the climate summit speaks at The World Economic Forum holds the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2018 in New York on Sept. 24, 2018. Ben Hider / World Economic Forum

By Howard LaFranchi

When United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decided to hold a high-level climate summit in conjunction with this year's General Assembly kicking off next week, he was well aware of the paradox of his initiative.

Read More Show Less
Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan meets with Guatemalan farmers on May 29 in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. John Moore / Getty Images

The Trump administration ignored its own evidence on how climate change is impacting migration and food security when setting new policies for cutting aid to Central America, NBC reports.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mike Pence brought the first motorcade to Mackinac Island on Saturday. Cars have been banned on the island since 1898. 13 ON YOUR SIDE / YouTube screenshot

Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on social media Saturday when he traveled in the first-ever motorcade to drive down the streets of Michigan's car-free Mackinac Island, HuffPost reported.

Read More Show Less
Inhaling from an electronic cigarette. 6okean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Shawn Radcliffe

  • As illnesses and deaths linked to vaping continue to rise, health officials urge people to stop using e-cigarettes.
  • Officials report 8 deaths have been linked to lung illnesses related to vaping.
  • Vitamin E acetate is one compound officials are investigating as a potential cause for the outbreak.
The number of vaping-related illnesses has grown to 530 cases in 38 states and 1 U.S. territory, federal health officials reported.
Read More Show Less
Activist Greta Thunberg leads the Youth Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in New York City. Roy Rochlin / WireImage / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

As organizers behind Friday's Global Climate Strike reported that four million children and adults attended marches and rallies all over the world — making it the biggest climate protest ever — they assured leaders who have been reticent to take bold climate action that the campaigners' work is far from over.

Read More Show Less