President Barack Obama fulfilled his promise to veto the Keystone pipeline bill on Tuesday — his first formal rejection of legislation in five years.
The bill had been awaiting his signature after passing the Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives with bipartisan support. In the Senate, nine Democrats voted for the bill, while 19 Democratic House representatives voted in favor.
Steven Greene, a political science professor at N. C. State University, said he thinks the bipartisanship of the bill was overrated.
“It’s just a great example on both sides of politics overriding a rational approach to policy,” Greene said. “There was complete hyperbole on both sides about what the consequences of this pipeline would be.”
Conservatives have touted the Keystone XL bill as a job-creator and are frustrated by Obama’s veto. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., called the veto “extremely disappointing.”
Tillis said the bill was a “common sense jobs and infrastructure bill that garnered broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.”
Greene thought Obama vetoed the bill to appease the environmental community.
Frank Pray, president of UNC College Republicans, said he thinks GOP legislators backed the pipeline because it would reduce the need for foreign oil.
“The building of the pipeline would create thousands of jobs in the short term,” he said. “In addition, it would make America more energy secure, and it would let the world know that we are open for business.”
The pipeline would cover 875 miles and passed through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The tar sands crude oil is in Canada.
Currently, the same crude sands oil from Canada is often transported by rail. According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, transporting crude oil by train is dangerous — and vapors can be released out of railcars. Oil spills are also a hazard with this form of transport.
Tony Liu, president of UNC Young Democrats, was supportive of the veto because it does not reduce the U.S.’s need for oil.
“Every step possible we can striving towards sustainable solutions is important, and Keystone XL is not one of those bills,” he said.
Liu said the pipeline was not about job creation as much as an environmental issue.
“Energy is such a critical part of our infrastructure,” he said.
During construction, the pipeline would create 42,100 jobs, and it would employ 35 to 50 to maintain the pipeline after construction, according to the U.S. State Department.
Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, spokesman for the N.C. Sierra Club, was a proponent of the veto because it was a step forward in the nation’s energy policy.
“It’s good that the president did exactly what he said he would do,” he said. “This committed veto from the president is a wonderful sign that we need to start moving forward.”
In addition to potential leaks in the pipeline, Chicurel-Bayard was concerned about the negative environmental impact the pipeline would have globally.
“The Keystone pipeline would significantly contribute to the climate crisis we have going on,” he said. “The biggest concern is global — it’s the carbon emissions it’s the contribution to climate disruption.”
The headline of this article has been clarified.
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