Politics & Policy

Obama Vetoes Keystone, Ignoring His Own Administration’s Findings

It’s a blow to the American economy and particularly to his supporters in organized labor.

President Obama vetoed legislation approving Keystone XL this afternoon, creating the latest and most significant challenge for the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline.

“Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest,” the president wrote in his veto message. He added that “because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety and environment — it has earned my veto.” 

It’s hard to fathom how Congress could possibly “cut short” consideration and review of a project that has already been on hold for a staggering 2,349 days. During that time, the State Department conducted not one but five separate and comprehensive reviews, examining precisely the security, safety, and environmental concerns that Obama referenced this afternoon.

In fact, the State Department found, construction of the pipeline may actually improve security and safety by reducing train traffic, which has boomed on pace with the growth of the energy sector. Railway accidents can turn hazardous fast, as illustrated in myriad incidents, from last week’s fiery West Virginia oil-tanker derailment to Canada’s Lac-Mégantic disaster, which left 47 dead in 2013. Approval of the pipeline could reduce rail traffic, preventing as many as 48 injuries and six fatalities annually, the State Department projected.

Moreover, the State Department noted last year, TransCanada has prepared an extensive risk-mitigation plan addressing potential hazards both to Americans and to the environment. The Obama administration seems prepared to accept nothing short of an ironclad guarantee of unconditional safety.  

The State Department has also thoroughly addressed environmental concerns, responding directly to green groups that raised them. It found that the pipeline would have a negligible effect on emissions levels.

Obama’s veto doesn’t keep Canadian oil and its accompanying emissions buried. In fact, Obama’s veto of the pipeline may be more carbon-intensive than construction would have been; as oil makes its way to the market by dirtier modes of transportation, emissions could actually grow, the State Department said.

The reality is that, contrary to what the president claims today, his own administration comprehensively reviewed Keystone XL and fastidiously scrutinized all possible security, safety, and environmental concerns — and found nothing alarming. But the State Department’s scientifically grounded conclusions apparently did not mesh with Obama’s political agenda. Today’s veto is the result.

Since it’s unlikely that Republicans will muster enough votes to override that veto, Obama’s decision all but ensures the United States will miss out on a shovel-ready $7 billion investment in American infrastructure. The veto also kills hope for the more than 42,000 jobs that would directly or indirectly result from the pipeline’s construction, as well as for $2 billion in wages, according to the Energy and Commerce Committee. Meanwhile, Obama’s supporters in organized labor will especially suffer from this lost opportunity.

This destructive veto harms America’s economy. By justifying it with blatantly flimsy excuses, the president adds insult to injury.

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