Bill sponsor, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)
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The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)

Those rambunctious fossil-fuel flunkies in the U.S. House of Representatives were at it again Wednesday. They passed a bill that would allow Keystone XL to bypass environmental laws and be built without approval from President Obama.

But the vote tally showed that support for construction of the pipeline is waning among House Democrats, following years of campaigning by environmentalists.

The House voted 241-175 to do away with an ongoing environmental review for the northern leg of the tar-sands pipeline project and make it more difficult for opponents to file appeals. (The southern leg is already more than halfway built.) The vote was mostly along partisan lines: All but one Republican voted in favor, and all but 19 Democrats voted against. Reuters reports that the number of Democrats in favor of the bill was down from the 69 that voted to approve similar legislation in April 2012.

“Pure political theater” is how The Guardian described the passage of the bill:

The bill was unlikely to pass in the Senate and the White House said on Tuesday it would veto any measure that attempted to bypass the current permit process.

But the vote — the seventh time Republicans in Congress have voted to speed up or approve Keystone — keeps up the pressure on Obama to approve the project.

The vote gave GOP lawmakers an opportunity to grandstand and demonstrate their loyalty to an industry that so heavily funds their campaigns:

“Five years! Five years and still no decision. What does five years mean? Well, world war two, where we mobilised America,” Ted Poe, a Texas congressman, said from the house floor on Wednesday.

“We went off to war in less than five years. But yet we can’t get a decision out of the White House for more than five years on this project. Are you kidding me?”

The bill was introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), who posted a statement on his website lauding its passage and claiming the pipeline would somehow create up to 20,000 jobs, plus another 120,000 indirect jobs. Which is weird, since the State Department’s review found that the northern leg would create 3,900 temporary construction jobs and then just 35 permanent jobs. Maybe Lee doesn’t understand how pipelines work. Maybe he thinks they are filled with child laborers passing oil-filled buckets down the line.

A bill explainer from Anthony Swift’s NRDC blog:

Terry’s bill would thwart a decades old bipartisan process for considering international pipeline applications — a process [in] which the American public is heavily invested after submitting over a million comments detailing the tar sands project’s significant environmental impacts. Moreover, in a series of unprecedented provisions, Terry’s bill would exempt the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), permitting requirements for federal rights of way, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The bill would not actually approve construction of the pipeline, it would just do away with environmental considerations that some House lawmakers liken to mere paperwork. From Reuters:

“What this boils down to is breaking through bureaucratic hurdles and making this project a priority,” said Jeff Denham, a California Republican.

Yeah, it attempts to boil something down alright. Earth.