After six years of languishing in political limbo, the Keystone XL pipeline may get Congressional approval as soon as next week. Two candidates in a run-off election for a Louisiana Senate seat have introduced parallel bills in the Senate and the House this week in a bid to garner votes ahead of a December 6 runoff election. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill tomorrow, and the Senate could do the same as early as Tuesday. Bloomberg explains the rationale behind this legislative blitzkrieg:
The Louisiana election runoff is coming to Capitol Hill with Republicans and Democrats scheduling votes on the Keystone XL pipeline, as each party seeks to clinch the last undecided U.S. Senate seat. […]Keystone has been a central issue in the Louisiana contest, with both candidates highlighting their support for it. [Democratic Senator Mary] Landrieu has focused on the pipeline as a way to distinguish herself from Obama, who lost Louisiana in 2012, and to proclaim backing for an energy industry that provides thousands of jobs in the state.
The House is expected to pass its own version of Landrieu’s bill tomorrow, proposed by Landrieu’s Republican challenger Representative Bill Cassidy. But the House has passed versions of this bill before; the question now is whether or not the Senate has enough votes now, before the Republican majority takes over. They’re close, with 58 out of the necessary 60 locked down, and there’s some speculation that some Democrats on the fence may sign on in an attempt to boost Landrieu in the runoff. If that happens, the legislation will still have to get past President Obama’s desk, and his press secretary noted that the White House “has taken a dim view of these kinds of legislative proposals in the past.”How this pipeline, one of many options for Canadian oil-sands producers to transport their crude to market, became such a hot-button green issue is anybody’s guess. Though multiple reports from the State Department have shown that the Keystone XL project will not have a net effect on global greenhouse gas emissions, the White House has kicked the can down the road on approving it for six years now. These delays have been politically motivated, as President Obama has been wary of alienating his green base, which has chosen this as its marquee issue. Now, politics are once again intervening in what should have been a relatively mundane approval process for the cross-border pipeline, and they may force the President’s hand on the issue sooner than he thought.