House passes Keystone XL bill

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly passed legislation authorizing Keystone XL, defying a White House vow to veto the bill.

The 266-153 House vote came just hours after a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling left intact the pipeline’s proposed route through the state and ahead of Senate debate set to begin Monday on an identical bill.

Read more: Nebraska ruling preserves Keystone XL route

All of the lawmakers representing Houston in the House — including Democratic Reps. Al Green, Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee — voted in favor of the legislation.

Keystone supporters said the measure is necessary to permit the border-crossing pipeline after years of off-and-on scrutiny from the State Department, which last April paused its analysis of the project to wait for resolution of the Nebraska litigation.

But there were no signs Friday that the ruling would prompt a swift verdict from the State Department, which is tasked with deciding whether the project is in the national interest.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the State Department would ask eight federal agencies to weigh in with their views on whether Keystone XL serves the national interest and give them “a sufficient and reasonable amount of time to provide their input.”

Although she declined to provide any details on the likely timing of the agencies’ feedback or State Department’s final national interest recommendation, Psaki suggested Secretary John Kerry was likely to preside over that decision — indicating a verdict at least within the final two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The Obama administration reaffirmed Friday that the Nebraska ruling hasn’t altered its opposition to the House-passed legislation to immediately approve Keystone XL.

“The State Department is examining the court’s decision as part of its process to evaluate whether the Keystone XL pipeline project serves the national interest,” said White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz. “As we have made clear, we are going to let that process play out. Regardless of the Nebraska ruling today, the House bill still conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on U.S. national interests, and if presented to the president, he will veto the bill.”

Keystone XL would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude daily and link Alberta’s oil sands projects with Gulf Coast refineries.

Lawmakers opposed to the pipeline said Congress shouldn’t streamline permitting of a project advanced by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.

And others questioned the enduring value of the project, suggesting it made more economic sense when oil prices were triple digits.

But TransCanada Corp. CEO Russ Girling insisted that Keystone XL still “makes environmental, economic and geopolitical sense.”

“That was true when the price of oil was less than $40 when we introduced the project six years ago, over $100 last year or $50 today,” Girling said.

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