House Republicans moved to make it easier to build pipelines from Mexico or Canada, as they sought to prevent a repeat of President Barack Obama’s drawn out rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The requirement for a presidential permit for pipelines that cross U.S. international borders would be eliminated under the legislation, which was approved by a vote of 254-175 in the House of Representatives. Senate approval is still required before the bill can go to President Donald Trump’s desk, and it faces longer odds there.
“More pipelines need to be built to bring natural gas and oil from where it is produced to the consumers,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement before the vote.
Obama’s rejection of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone project, as well as Energy Transfer Partners LP’s Dakota Access Pipeline are “the poster children of this problem,” Ryan said. Both projects were approved by Trump after he took office.
“Unfortunately, crossborder decisions have now fallen victim to election cycle politics,” Texas Representative Gene Green, the bill’s sole Democratic co-sponsor, said during a committee vote on it last month. “We cannot build infrastructure in our country based on who sits in the White House.”
Under the legislation, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent agency, would take the lead in approving international pipeline projects in the form of a new “certificate of crossing.” Currently, the State Department has sole responsibility for approving oil pipelines that cross the U.S. border. The pipelines and transmission lines covered by this bill could carry energy to or from Mexico and Canada.
The House passed the bill over objections from Democrats, as well as environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters.
“This bill would make it almost impossible for an agency to ever deny a permit and could result in irreversible damage to our health, public safety, climate, environment, and economy,” the league said in a letter to lawmakers.
After seven years of debate and consideration, Obama decided in late 2015 to reject the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which was proposed to carry Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. A lengthy State Department review concluded the pipeline “would not serve the national interest of the United States.”
That was a setback for the project, but not its death. TransCanada reapplied for a permit under Trump, and had it approved in March.