By a vote of 17 to 9, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Power passed the Northern Route Approval Act (H.R. 3) yesterday in an attempt to force the Obama Administration to issue a decision regarding the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. The bill was passed by a mostly partisan vote, with only three Democrats joining their Republican counterparts in approving the measure.
Crafted by Congressman Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican, H.R. 3 directly empowers Congress to approve the Keystone XL instead of allowing the decision to rest with President Obama. Realistically, the bill is destined to fail: not only must it be approved by the Republican-held House, it would then have to pass the Democratic-majority in the Senate as well as be signed into law by President Obama. Nonetheless, the bill’s sponsors – as well as Keystone XL supporters outside of Congress – see the bill’s passage as a sign of positive momentum. At the very least, they hope this will spark the Administration to more quickly act and make a final decision. The Chairman of the Subcommittee, Michigan Republican Fred Upton, was quick to reiterate this sentiment, noting that “[t]here is no reason for the administration to continue dragging its feet on this jobs and energy project.” If the President is unwilling to Act, the House is ready to jump in.
Supporters of the pipeline argue that in addition to creating thousands of construction, monitoring, and repair jobs, it will also serve as a critical boost to North American energy independence, bringing in more than 830,000 barrel per day. Opponents, on the other hand, fervently argue that the environmental hazards – from vast increases in greenhouse gas production to potentially devastating spills – far outweigh any benefits.
Particularly worrisome to opponents of H.R. 3, however, is that the measure bypasses executive review and discretion. Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman, a ranking member on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, strongly emphasized this concern, explaining that it would “lock out the public, eliminate the president’s responsibility to balance competing interests, and block federal agencies from minimizing the destruction of wetlands and endangered species habitats.” Congressman Waxman further argued that in regards to the administrative concerns raised, “[e]ven if you support the pipeline, you should oppose this bill.”
H.R. 3 will be brought to a full committee vote sometime later in May.
To see further information regarding the Northern Route Approval Act as well as the text of the bill itself, please click here.