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Foes of the Keystone XL pipeline, organized by the Cowboys and Indians Alliance,
protested in Washington, D.C., during the week ending April 26.
Last week, Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu introduced legislation that would circumvent the current process for deciding whether the Keystone XL pipeline gets built or not.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate-change activist group 350.org, said of the move:

“The endless attempts of bought-off politicians with Big Oil money to ram this thing through America’s Heartland are as disheartening as they are predictable. We will do all we can to meet their money with science and their cynicism with conviction.”
Currently, the pipeline is under review by the State Department, which is evaluating the assessment of eight federal agencies and 2.5 million public comments to determine if building Keystone XL is in the "national interest" and deserves a required presidential permit. By executive order, the review is mandated for any pipeline, bridge, tramway or tunnel that crosses international boundaries. Keystone XL would carry up to 830,000 barrels a day of one of the most polluting and otherwise environmentally destructive forms of petroleum from the Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast refineries.  

Landrieu-Hoeven would override that process, something the Congressional Research Service has concluded is within congressional prerogatives.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

The most recent reason the White House has offered for delaying its decision, probably until after the November elections, is a state court ruling in Nebraska in February that the legislature had transferred authority unconstitutionally to the governor's office for approving Keystone XL's route through the state. The move was widely seen as a means to accelerate a decision in favor of the pipeline, giving builder TransCanada the power of eminent domain in Nebraska along the new route. The old route was a key reason President Obama blocked TransCanada's first application to build the pipeline.

Unless overturned on appeal, that routing decision rests with the Nebraska Public Service Commission. It might approve the Keystone XL route previously okayed, or it might reject it. Either way, a decision could take up to a year from when the Nebraska Supreme Court rules. And that won't happen, at the earliest, until September. The question then arises whether Congress can approve a pipeline for which the entire route has not been chosen or if that would violate the National Environmental Protection Act.

But there are many more obstacles than the battle over the Nebraska route in the way of the bill.

At last count, Landrieu-Hoeven had only 56 "hard votes"—all of them co-sponsors of the bill. That's 45 Republicans and 11 Democrats, several of the latter from fossil-fuel states and several, like Landrieu and Mark Begich of Alaska, up for re-election in November. Four more votes are needed to get a filibuster-proof majority. Last time a proposal of this nature was brought up, 17 Democrats voted with the Republicans. But that was a non-binding resolution. This proposal would have the force of law.

These are the 10 Democrats besides Landrieu backing the bill so far: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester and John Walsh of Montana, Mark Warner of Virginia, Mark Begich of Alaska, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

If it cleared the Senate, the Landrieu-Hoeven bill would have no problem passing the Republican-dominated House. But then would come the matter of a presidential veto. Overriding it would take 290 House votes and 67 in the Senate. Chances for that are zero.

But for Democratic senators hoping to parlay their support into votes come November, a veto might not make any difference. They could stand before the voters shaking their heads over what critics are calling unacceptable delays and say they at least tried to speed up approval of the pipeline while the White House stood in the way. In poll after poll, rank-and-file Democrats have endorsed the Keystone XL.

Oil Change International's Dirty Energy Money tracker found that lifetime campaign contributions from oil companies for the bill's co-sponsors averaged $375,000 apiece while contributions to non-sponsors averaged $78,000.

One question not yet answered is whether the bill will be included as an amendment to a modest energy-efficiency bill—Shaheen-Portman—or be voted on as stand-alone legislation. Hoeven sees it going either way, although Republican leaders want it to be an amendment. The advantage for them is that a veto would then require Obama to trash all of Shaheen-Portman, which has wide bipartisan support. Landrieu, on the other hand, wants two bills.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has offered the opportunity to vote on the proposal as a stand-alone bill. This depends on whether he and Republicans can agree on what amendments will be allowed to be voted on in Shaheen-Portman.

•••

Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse has a discussion going on this subject here

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon May 05, 2014 at 01:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS and Daily Kos.

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