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After a Veto, Keystone Is Far From Dead

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President Barack Obama might have vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline, but the fight over the pipeline is far from over.

House Speaker John Boehner said as much in a video message after Monday's veto: “All I want to say is the fight’s not over.”

Congressional Action

Republicans, who control both the House and the Senate, have the option of taking up the legislation again to override the president's veto. But it's unlikely Congress could find the two-thirds majority it needs, especially in the Senate where it would need 67 votes. It passed the bill with the support of 62 last month.

But the legislative process is not the only path to Keystone. And while the political battle might go on, the realities are that that path to Keystone through Congress is all but dead for now.

The Real Outcome is Outside of Congress

The pipeline, an $8 billion project that would transport 830 million barrels of oil from the mostly undeveloped tar sands in Alberta Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast, could, however, still become a reality.

The ultimate decision rests with President Obama; he doesn't need Congressional approval - Congress was trying to force his hand. And he has never closed the door to the pipeline, long saying that he is waiting on final reports from the State Department on the economic and environmental impacts of the pipeline. Even in his veto, he said he objected to Congress’ bill because it “conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest – including security, safety, and environment.”

The State Department’s report has been a long a process that involves the input of eight federal agencies and is required because the massive infrastructure project crosses international borders. The federal agencies have already submitted their analysis to the State Department and the final report could be released within the month.

But the president has to follow no timeline on making a decision. In fact, he doesn’t ever have to make a decision, which would leave the project in limbo until the next president decides - or doesn't.

Opposing Forces

Meanwhile, both supporters of the pipeline, including TransCanada, the company that would use the pipeline to transport the oil, and environmental activists who oppose the measure, are continuing to fight.

Environmentalists will keep putting pressure on the president to oppose the project once he does receive the report and TransCanada said it will “keep working in good faith with the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies to address any outstanding concerns.”

Louisa Abbott Galvao, climate and energy associate at Friends of the Earth, note Obama’s self–imposed metric that the project “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” In their analysis, the Environmental Protection Agency found that development of the tar sands would lead to “a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.”

“He has all the information he needs to reject it,” Abbott Galvao said.

Of course, TransCanada points to numerous reasons as to why the pipeline should be approved, including that the U.S. will replace tar sands oil with oil from pay rogue regimes overseas.