Congress Whacks the Keystone XL Piñata Again

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Congress is expected to vote this week on a bill to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The legislation, titled the “Northern Route Approval Act” (H.R. 3), is hot off the press from KXL super-cheerleader Rep. Lee Terry (R-Nebraska), and amounts to a massive corporate giveaway that overrides our country’s most important environmental protections.

Photo: Emma Cassidy/tarsandsaction
Photo: Emma Cassidy/tarsandsaction
Here’s what you need to know about H.R. 3:

  • It’s the most extreme KXL legislation the House has voted on. That’s really saying something, considering the half-dozen other terrible bills that have popped up over the last couple years. Not only would it remove the decision from the President’s hands, but it would override the authority and oversight responsibilities of the US State Department, the Department of the Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Environmental Protection Agency, which has an important role to play in the State Department review, would also be ignored.
  • It relies upon outdated science. Imagine if your doctor wrote you a prescription based on your medical chart from years ago — inconceivable, right? But that’s essentially what Rep. Terry wants to do for Keystone. The State Department issued an analysis in 2011 for the first Keystone XL application, but TransCanada (the pipeline builder) revised its route and submitted an application for a new project in 2012. Despite this, H.R. 3 would use the 2011 analysis to fulfill legal requirements.
  • Just in case there was any doubt about its anti-environment intentions, Rep. Terry’s bill would force all legal challenges to go through one of the country’s most conservative courts, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
  • It’s essentially an earmark, which is to say a favor for a specific company (TransCanada). But it would also set a dangerous precedent for other tar sands pipelines that the industry is pushing around the U.S. — in the Great Lakes watershed, the farm belt, Gulf coast, and even New England.

Regardless of your opinion of the pipeline itself (and let’s not forget just how dangerous KXL is for wildlife and our climate) this bill is a massive overreach by Big Oil’s allies in Congress. The White House, by law, is supposed to oversee international pipelines, and while we’ve had our disagreements about how well they’ve conducted their review, at least it’s given citizens the opportunity to weigh in. In April, over a million public comments were submitted in opposition to the project — but Rep. Terry’s bill would throw those comments into the proverbial paper shredder and put a big rubber stamp on TransCanada’s application.

As Larry Schweiger, NWF’s president and CEO, put it:

This bill puts the interests of a foreign energy company ahead of more than 1 million Americans who have expressed concern for our nation’s wildlife, energy security and public health. It is a bad bill that caters to polluters, not people.

Take Action ButtonGiven how anti-environmental the House of Representatives has become, we expect this bill to pass, but there are still a number of key Congressmen and women who could vote either way — and how they vote sends an important message about their conservation values. Your voice can help! Call or email your representative and tell them to vote NO on H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act.

To learn more about the threats posed to wildlife and public health by pipelines like Keystone XL, visit