Will President Obama Finally Stop The Keystone XL Pipeline?

President Barack Obama vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline earlier this week, but that doesn’t mean the debate over the 1,179-mile oil pipeline has ended.

The next move for the president is to finally decide whether or not KXL is in the country’s national interest, and then make his final decision. His veto, he explained, stalls the project, but environmentalists and others are looking to see where this will finally lead.

“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,” Obama told the Senate in a letter accompanying his veto.

“The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously.

“But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people. And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch 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.”

Demonstrators hold a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. The Keystone XL pipeline has become a proxy for debates about global warming, jobs and energy security. Republicans who now control both houses of Congress have vowed to make approval of the pipeline one of their first pieces of legislation this year, a move the Obama administration opposes. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

Demonstrators hold a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. The Keystone XL pipeline has become a proxy for debates about global warming, jobs and energy security. Republicans who now control both houses of Congress have vowed to make approval of the pipeline one of their first pieces of legislation this year, a move the Obama administration opposes. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

This is only the third time Obama has vetoed a bill during his presidency.

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While Obama doesn’t offer any further explanation with his veto letter, he did briefly talk about the Keystone project in his inauguration speech last month:

“Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this.

“So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, center, speaks during an enrollment ceremony before signing the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act (S.1) with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, from left, Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, Boehner, Representative Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota, and Representative Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Congressional Republicans achieved an elusive legislative goal Wednesday, sending a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to President Barack Obama. The U.S. House passed the measure 270-152, with 29 Democrats joining all but one Republican to support the bill. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, center, speaks during an enrollment ceremony before signing the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act (S.1) with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, from left, Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, Boehner, Representative Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota, and Representative Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Congressional Republicans achieved an elusive legislative goal Wednesday, sending a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to President Barack Obama. The U.S. House passed the measure 270-152, with 29 Democrats joining all but one Republican to support the bill. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Since TransCanada first filed an application for a cross-border permit in 2008, the project has become heavily politicized, with passions running high on both sides.

“The Keystone XL pipeline has come to represent much more than a link between Canada’s oil sands and world markets,” said a video by Carrie Halperin and Emily B. Hager with The New York Times.

“It’s now been five years of protests, Congressional votes and growing polarization. Even while the project itself will have limited environmental and economic impact.”

For the Republican party, Keystone represents the opportunity to create jobs. Members of the GOP have stated that up to 42,000 jobs in the public and private sectors will be generated as a direct result of the pipeline.

For environmentalists, the pipeline is a symbol linked to climate change. Current methods to extract oil from Canada’s tar sands are more destructive than other approaches, say environmental activists. For them, the project is a double-edged sword, both encouraging reliance on oil while discharging excessive pollution in the process.

Most of the arguments from both sides, however, appear to be overstated:

  • Neutral sources estimate that after the pipeline is built, Keystone will actually only create 35 permanent jobs.
  • After reviewing the potential environmental impact, the State Department acknowledged extra carbon pollution is produced when oil is extracted from the tar sands. However, the report called these impacts irrelevant, saying the oil will most likely be extracted regardless of Keystone’s approval.
  • Economic analysts concluded that the 800,000 barrels of petroleum moved by the pipeline everyday won’t have any effect on the gas prices at the pump.

“This is a relatively small job creator in the grand scheme of things,” said Michael Levi, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.

“But it’s also a relatively small contribution of climate change in the grand scheme of things.

“I don’t think many people would have predicted that Keystone such a central issue, not only in the country’s energy fights, but in its broader political fights.”

The veto from the president doesn’t necessarily signify an end to Keystone XL. If he chooses, Obama can still approve the project at any time during the remainder of his term.

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Congress can also override the veto with a vote that receives approval from at least two-thirds of the House and Senate.

Supporters backing the Keystone project also stated that they are undeterred by the veto.

”It is not a question of if this project will be approved; it is a matter of when,” said Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford in a written statement.

”We will continue to strongly advocate for this job-creating project.”