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Obama Will Veto Keystone XL Legislation, White House Says

Updated at 5:46 p.m.

The White House says President Obama will veto any congressional legislation that approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

"If this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn't sign it," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The House, which has a Republican majority, is expected to vote on a Keystone bill this week. The GOP-dominated Senate is considering a similar measure, which has bipartisan support.

The pipeline, which would move crude from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, has been at the center of a long and contentious debate involving politicians, energy companies and environmentalists, as NPR's Scott Horsley and Jeff Brady reported last November.

Supporters of the pipeline say it will create 42,000 jobs, but opponents cite environmental concerns and are skeptical about how many jobs the project can actually create — with one estimate noting that it would create just 35 permanent jobs.

A State Department environmental review of the project found Keystone wouldn't have an significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. As to where Obama stands on the pipeline, here's more from NPR's Horsley and Brady:

"The president has unusual leverage over this pipeline. Because it crosses the U.S. border with Canada, Keystone XL requires a 'presidential permit.' Obama has guarded that power jealously. Three years ago, when Congress tried to force him to make a decision by issuing a 60-day deadline, he simply rejected the permit application.

"The political challenge for Obama is that Democrats are genuinely divided on the issue, with construction unions favoring the project and some environmental activists opposing it. No matter what he decides, some constituents will be unhappy — so the president has basically stalled."

The U.S. State Department is conducting a review of the pipeline's route, but that process has been held up because of a lawsuit in Nebraska over where the pipeline will be located.

In Washington, American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard responded quickly.

Very quickly.

As the news broke, Gerard happened to be standing in front of dozens of Washington journalists gathered for his annual "state of American energy" address. He was asked about the White House veto plans and responded by saying he was "disappointed" and that such a move "doesn't bode well for relationships between the White House and Capitol Hill."

He said he isn't sure whether there are enough votes currently to override a veto, but added that the White House and Congress should be able to "get to yes" through negotiations. "I believe at some point in 2015, the Keystone XL pipeline will be approved," he said.

Gerard said he did not believe the plunge in oil prices would discourage TransCanada from building the pipeline because as the world's population grows in the 21st century, people will want more oil. "The fact is fossil fuels will continue to take the lead in providing most of the world's energy needs well into this century," Gerard said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
Marilyn Geewax is a contributor to NPR.