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House OKs Keystone Bill as Nebraska Court Upholds Pipeline Route

The House passed legislation 266-153 Friday approving the Keystone XL pipeline, defying a White House veto threat and just hours after a Nebraska court upheld that state’s law agreeing to the builder’s proposed route.

Twenty-eight Democrats voted for the bill (HR 3), a significant threshold but not enough to help Republicans override an expected presidential veto.

Republicans and Democrats echoed familiar arguments for and against the pipeline, which would cross the U.S.-Canadian border in Montana and connect with an existing network in Nebraska. The state’s supreme court decision Friday upheld a state law that gave Nebraska’s governor the authority to endorse pipeline builder TransCanada’s route through the state.

The White House has frequently cited the Nebraska litigation as one reason for not supporting legislation to approve the project. With the decision out of the way, it’s expected that federal agencies will wrap up their comments to the State Department on the proposed conduit in the coming weeks, a process that had been indefinitely extended due to the lawsuit.

The State Department had indicated that agencies were concerned that their comments would be rendered moot if a section of the pipeline’s path were to ultimately change.

Secretary of State John Kerry will then decide whether the pipeline is in the “national interest,” though the ultimate decision to approve or deny a permit to build rests with President Barack Obama.

Democrats say building the pipeline would do little to move the United States away from oil in the transportation sector at a time when greenhouse gas emissions need to be curbed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Republicans maintain that the conduit is necessary to establish North American energy security and to aid Canada as an ally.

The Senate is set to begin floor debate next week on an identical bill (S 1) to give Keystone the green light, with a vote to limit debate on a motion to proceed to the measure scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday. Bill sponsors John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., hope that they can draw a number of bipartisan amendments to build more Democratic support for the bill.

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