Senate Fails to Override Obama’s Keystone Pipeline Veto
March 04, 2015, 6:00am

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday failed to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would have approved construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

A bipartisan majority of senators were unable to reach the two-thirds majority required to undo a presidential veto. The vote was 62 to 37.

The measure’s defeat was widely expected, and marks the latest twist in the clash over the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, which would move about 800,000 barrels of carbon-heavy petroleum per day from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Republicans used the debate on the vote to attack Mr. Obama for his years of delay in making a decision about the pipeline. The State Department has the authority to approve or deny the project because it crosses an international border, but the ultimate decision on the project is expected to come from the president.

“The president’s veto of the bipartisan Keystone bill represents a victory for partisanship and for powerful special interests,” said the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky. “The president’s veto of the bipartisan Keystone bill represents a defeat for jobs, infrastructure, and the middle class.”

The Senate vote ensures that the first significant veto of Mr. Obama’s administration will stand – and also that his future vetoes are likely to withstand similar efforts. However, Republicans said they intended to continue to find ways to bring the Keystone bill back to the president’s desk.

“We will continue working on this important infrastructure project,” said Senator John Hoeven, Republican of North Dakota, a leading sponsor of the Keystone measure. “Another option is to attach this legislation to other energy, infrastructure or appropriations legislation that the president won’t want to veto. The will of the American people and Congress is clear.”

Mr. Obama indicated that he vetoed the bill not because of the pipeline itself, but rather because the bill would have removed his authority to make the final decision on the project.

People close to Mr. Obama said he would make a decision soon. In an interview on Monday with Reuters, Mr. Obama said that he could issue the final decision within “weeks or months” – or “by the end of my administration.”

The pipeline has been under review since TransCanada, the company seeking to build the project, applied in 2008 for a State Department permit to build the cross-border project. It has been subject to multiple environmental impact reviews, which have consistently concluded that construction of the pipeline is unlikely to significantly contribute to climate change.

However, environmental groups and several leading climate change scientists have urged Mr. Obama to reject the pipeline, arguing that its construction makes it easier to move heavily polluting petroleum from the Canadian oil sands. The State Department study concluded that the process of extracting the oil sands petroleum produces about 17 percent more planet-warming carbon pollution than conventional oil.