I’ll give the House Rules Committee credit for learning. Even if yet another bill to get the Keystone XL oil pipeline approved is destined for a presidential veto, they’ve figured out how to make that stroke of a pen a little more difficult for President Obama. This one would include nine Democratic amendments, many that may supply him with new reasons to approve the pipeline, or at least new conditions to place on it. But don’t get your hopes up. There’s a massive, unavoidable legislative hurdle in the path of Keystone’s proponents.
The Democratic amendments to the Northern Route Approval Act are as follows:
- Approve the pipeline’s northern leg, between Alberta and Nebraska.
- Require all oil flowing through the pipeline to be used within the U.S. and not exported elsewhere.
- Require TransCanada (who’s making the pipeline) to submit oil spill response plans to affected states.
- Require a study on projected clean-up costs in the event of a spill.
- Add a finding indicating that reliance on oil from Alberta’s oil sands would increase carbon emissions, and require offsets of those emissions before the bill goes into effect.
- Require a study on health risks from projected increases in air pollution.
- Require an assessment of the pipeline’s vulnerability to terror attacks.
- Something about ensuring oversight.
- Allow one year to file a legal claim under the act, as opposed to 60 days.
I must admit, I’m getting a little tired of the constant calls for studies and assessments and reviews. While it’s important for all benefits and costs to be part of the discussion, at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if the information was already out there and its researchers just weren’t summarizing it. Perhaps there ought to be a study of all Keystone studies to make sure this isn’t happening. (I’m kidding. But, please, someone look into it.)
Of course, a Republican amendment adding language assuring Keystone’s environmental safety would make many of the above amendments moot, which is about as silly as writing a bill that Obama already promised not to sign. Congress may have the constitutional authority “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations,” but unless they can muster a two-thirds vote in both chambers, before or after, a presidential veto will be the final word until Obama makes a decision on his own. Hell, a decision from him would probably be more compelling for congressional Democrats than any amendments they were offered.
There’s also the small matter of getting each amendment passed, unlikely given the majority party’s zeal to get Keystone not only passed, but built. That may be good enough for simple House passage, but not to make the bill veto-proof in even one chamber.