White House threatens veto of Keystone bill

The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto a House bill that would expedite construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

“Because H.R. 3 seeks to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross-border pipelines are in the national interest by removing the Presidential Permitting requirement for the Keystone XL pipeline project, if presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill,” the White House said in a statement of administrative policy.

The House is due to consider — and likely pass — H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, on Wednesday.

The bill would remove a requirement that Keystone builder TransCanada Corp. receive a cross-border permit from the White House to complete its northern leg, which enters Canada.

The proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline is under federal review. The White House said Tuesday that the GOP-backed House bill “conflicts with longstanding Executive branch procedures regarding the authority” of various federal agencies.

Additionally, the White House said the bill is “unnecessary” because the State Department is “working diligently” to complete its Keystone assessment. The administration said the legislation would handcuff State from thoroughly evaluating the project’s security and environmental implications.

The bill’s supporters, which include Republicans; centrist Democrats; business groups and some unions, say the bill is necessary to take the Keystone decision out of President Obama’s hands.

They say Obama has dragged his feet on the project, saying the president is blocking immediate construction jobs and inhibiting U.S. energy security.

Democrats and green groups, however, have questioned job claims by the pipeline’s proponents. They also say much of the crude Keystone would transport is destined for export.

Environmental organizations and Democrats also say the pipeline would encourage production and use of carbon-intensive oil sands, in turn exacerbating climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions.