The House of Representatives approved a bill as expected on Wednesday declaring that a presidential permit was not needed to approve the Canada-to-Nebraska leg of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a move that would take a decision on the project away from the Obama administration.
The Republican-controlled House voted 241-175, with less support from Democrats than during the most recent attempt to speed up pipeline approval.
The bill faces an uphill battle because it would have to pass the Senate with enough votes to overcome a promised veto from President Barack Obama.
The House on Wednesday approved a rule governing floor consideration of a bill that would approve the construction of the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a Thursday vote to pass the bill.
Members approved the rule for H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, in a 228-185 vote. Nine Democrats supported the rule, a sign that several will support the final bill on Thursday.
The vote followed a debate that allowed both sides to revisit all of their familiar arguments for and against the pipeline. Republicans cast the bill as one that creates jobs and helps boost energy supplies in the U.S., and one that President Obama has needlessly delayed for years.
The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto a House bill that would expedite construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
"Because H.R. 3 seeks to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross-border pipelines are in the national interest by removing the Presidential Permitting requirement for the Keystone XL pipeline project, if presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill," the White House said in a statement of administrative policy.
The House is due to consider — and likely pass — H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, on Wednesday.
The House is expected to easily pass a Keystone XL pipeline approval bill this week with bipartisan support, but liberal Democrats that oppose the project will try to land some punches too.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) wants a floor vote on an amendment requiring that oil transported through the Canada-to-Texas oil sands pipeline – and any refined products made from it – remain in the U.S.
Keystone opponents say the pipeline would fuel exports from the Gulf Coast rather than U.S. consumption, an argument aimed at countering claims that Keystone would enhance U.S. energy security by boosting supplies from a friendly neighbor.
Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, who's increasingly throwing his weight around in politics, said approving the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline would create political hurdles for President Obama’s second-term agenda and cost him the support of key donors.
Steyer, a major Democratic fundraiser, told Grist magazine that Keystone opponents have leverage to exert over Obama even though he’s free of having to run for reelection.
“If you look at the people who support Obama, and then you look at the people who support him actively and give money, the number of people who care about climate in this second group is actually a majority — not out of the people who support him, but the people who are really active and give money. It's an enormously high percentage," Steyer, who made his fortune running a hedge fund, said in the wide-ranging interview.
Steyer cautioned that Obama should be careful not to alienate these influential supporters.
Glaciologists trekking onto remote, inhospitable streams of flowing ice have brought back some especially bad news. But then 21st century monitoring from space began to show a much smaller role for glacial ice loss in sea-level rise. Which to believe?
A new study brings together both boots-on-the-ice and high-tech glaciologists, saying that although the field measurements were painting an accurate picture of the few glaciers being monitored, they were not representative of the world's glaciers.
All 19 glacierized regions of the world are losing ice, the study finds, but the iconic glaciers long-studied by field glaciologists are disappearing faster than most. Still, the
world's glaciers are losing ice just as fast as the great ice sheets.
The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled a new proposal for its first major regulation of hydraulic fracturing on public lands, attempting to address at least a portion of the controversial drilling practice that's unlocked vast new supplies of U.S. oil and gas but has also raised fears about its environmental impact, particularly on local water supplies.
The proposal is softer on energy producers than an initial draft floated by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management last year. Over the past several months, oil and gas executives—including lobbyists for ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and the American Petroleum Institute—have met several times with administration officials, asking them to loosen the rule.
Environmentalists immediately slammed the proposal, saying that it gives far too many concessions to the industry and won’t protect communities from possible contamination of water tables.
"These rules protect industry, not people. They are riddled with gaping holes that endanger clean, safe drinking water supplies for millions of Americans nationwide," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Even in a bitterly divided Capitol, Democrats and Republicans joined together Thursday in a sweeping vote to confirm Ernest Moniz as Energy secretary.
The vote was 97-0.
The vote installs Moniz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor and seasoned veteran of Washington, as the second key member of Obama’s second-term energy and environment team. The Senate last month approved outdoor retailer and conservationist Sally Jewell as Interior secretary.
After boycotting the same confirmation vote a week earlier, Republican senators agreed Thursday to show up for a committee vote on President Barack Obama’s pick to be the nation’s top air and water quality regulator.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 10-8 to move along Gina McCarthy’s nomination as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to the full Senate for a vote.
Republicans, led by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, held up the committee vote for several weeks, saying the EPA hadn’t adequately answered questions about McCarthy’s role as a deputy there. Vitter asked McCarthy a record-breaking 653 questions, out of 1,120 from the committee.
Ninety-seven percent of scientists say global warming is mainly man-made but a wide public belief that experts are divided is making it harder to gain support for policies to curb climate change, an international study showed on Thursday.
The report found an overwhelming view among scientists that human activity, led by the use of fossil fuels, was the main cause of rising temperatures in recent decades.
"There is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary," said John Cook of the University of Queensland in Australia, who led the study in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
"There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception," he said in a statement. "When people understand that scientists agree on global warming, they're more likely to support policies that take action on it."