Policy: Environment & Energy

'We have the votes' to override Keystone XL pipeline veto, Democratic senator says

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Beltway Confidential,Congress,Sean Higgins,Barack Obama,Keystone XL,Energy and Environment

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said patience is running out in Congress regarding the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project and lawmakers may decide to act without President Obama.

"We know that we have the votes here in the Senate; we certainly have the votes in the House," Heitkamp said in a USA Today interview. "In fact, I think we could build enough votes to override a veto."

We know that we have the votes here in the Senate; we certainly have the votes in the House

The freshman Democrat, first elected to the Senate in 2012, said Obama has been succumbing to pressure from Big Green environmental activists on the Left opposed to the project.

"He's having a very difficult time to find a real, factual, legal reason to deny the permits," she said.

The project would build an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Construction would create an estimated 42,000 jobs, according to a March State Department report.

Obama was initially set to decide on approving it in 2011, but has postponed making a decision numerous times since then and likely will not make one until next year.

A broad coalition of Big Business and Big Labor groups have backed the project, as has the Canadian government.

Environmentalists staunchly oppose the pipeline because it would further development of North American fossil fuel sources. They have urged activists to get "militant" in their opposition and reiterated their opposition in a recent letter to Obama.

Heitkamp said they have succeeded in painting Obama into a corner of the issue.

"The Keystone Pipeline decision has taken longer than it took us to defeat Hitler," she said. "There's just something wrong with this process."

She also accused the president of having an "irrational" dislike of coal. Under Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency has asserted broad powers to limit carbon-based emissions by factories and power plants.

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