OTTAWA — The Keystone XL pipeline, a key component of the Harper government's energy vision, suffered another setback as the White House said President Barack Obama would veto a Congressional bill to have the long-stalled project built.
Republicans, who have gained control of both houses of the U.S. Congress, have made getting approval of the pipeline to carry oilsands crude from Alberta to the U.S. their first order of business this year.
Obama has regularly expressed doubts about the value of Keystone for Americans but Tuesday’s comment by a White House spokesperson was the most explicit indication yet that the president has no intention of allowing Congress to push through approval of Keystone.
“I can confirm for you that if this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn't sign it either,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. He noted that similar legislation proposed by members of Congress last year had also been considered a none-starter by Obama.
“And that's because there is already a well established process in place to consider whether or not infrastructure projects like this are in the best interests of the country,” Earnest said, referring to the examination of Keystone that had been underway for years in the U.S. State Department. It has jurisdiction over the pipeline application because it would cross from Canada into the U.S.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been pushing the Obama administration to approve Keystone, which is crucial to the Conservatives’ economic strategy of increasing exports of oil and natural gas.
The White House’s thumbs down on Keystone is only the first salvo in what is shaping up as a standoff between Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress. The House of Representatives plans to vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline Act on Wednesday, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), introduced a similar bill authorizing construction of the pipeline in the Senate on Tuesday.