WH threatens veto of House oil pipeline bill

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The Obama administration threatened Tuesday to veto a House bill that would remove the president’s power to review cross-border oil pipelines like Keystone XL.

The North American Energy Infrastructure Act would set a 120-day deadline for the State Department to approve pipelines into Canada or Mexico to expedite the permit process. And the bill would compel the approval of any permit unless found to not be in the “public interest.”

“H.R. 3301 would impose an unreasonable deadline that would curtail the thorough consideration of the issues involved, which could result in serious security, safety, foreign policy, environmental, economic, and other ramifications,” the White House said in a Tuesday statement.

“Additionally, the bill would prevent assessment of whether modifications to border-crossing pipelines or electric transmission facilities are in the national interest, which is provided for through the current process,” the White House added.

The House is planning to vote on the bill Tuesday.

The bill would not apply to Keystone XL or other pipelines currently under review, but Democrats warned that TransCanada Corp. could re-submit the Keystone application under the new rules.

Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, labeled it the “Zombie Pipeline Act.”

Cross-border oil pipelines currently require a presidential permit and State Department review before construction. At a May meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee at which it approved the bill, lawmakers said they were frustrated by the more than five years it has taken Obama to consider Keystone.

“This approach is a sincere effort to focus a targeted solution to lessons learned from the Keystone pipeline,” Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said at the hearing.

“No one can rightly argue that the current presidential permit process at the State Department is not broken, no matter what side of the climate debate you’re on,” he added.