Zombie Pipeline Bill Passes House; Obama Administration Threatens to Veto

You have to wonder exactly just what 238 House of Representatives were being paid to do last night: act in the best interest of U.S. taxpayers or multinational tar sands corporations like TransCanada? Because at final count, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act passed yesterday 238-173. Oh, it’s only another bill with a bunch of harmless legislative jargon the majority of Americans would find extremely boring right?

Boring perhaps. Harmless not by a long shot. H.R. 3301 contains a sneaky little addendum that includes the Cross-Border Oil & Gas Pipeline line item. Often referred to by opponents such as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) as the ¨Zombie Pipeline Bill¨ because it strips away the Presidential permitting process on any future international oil and gas pipeline projects here in the U.S. – and allows projects currently under review, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline (if rejected by the Obama Administration) to re-apply under this newer, weaker legislation.

The North American Energy Infrastructure Act would set a 120-day deadline for the State Department to approve pipelines into Canada or Mexico to expedite the permit process. And the bill would compel the approval of any permit unless found to not be in the “public interest.” – The Hill

Did you catch the part about unless found to not be in the public interest? Translation: only public interest at the Canadian or Mexican borders. HR 3301 would require a brief environmental assessments at sections of pipeline where it actually “crosses” the U.S. border with Canada and Mexico.

The remainder of pipeline resting on American soil? The millions of acres of farmland and homes and natural habitat that could be devastated by potential oil leaks and spills? Well under the Zombie Pipeline Bill, no larger comprehensive environmental assessments would be required. Once a developer had obtained an obligatory “certificate of crossing” they would be free to build, and pump, the most carbon intensive of fuels straight thru the heart of the U.S.

Another point of contention: none of the projected oil or natural gas would be used domestically (not that we actually want it, but still a key point), it’s all slated for international shores. And, TransCanada Corp. profits benefit only Canadian oil execs  –  along with the legislators and lobbyist apparently being paid to support their interests here in the U.S.

“Republicans in Congress like to talk about a fictional ‘war on coal.’ There is no war on coal, but there is a real war on the environment that is waged every day on the floor of the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman this morning.

“There is strong public support for basic safeguards to ensure we have clean air and clean water and that the EPA has the resources it needs to carry out its mission. Yet by the end of today, Republicans in the House will have voted 500 times to rollback the Clean Air Act, weaken the Clean Water Act, deny the existence of climate change, defund investments in clean renewable energy, and undermine environmental protections. It’s an atrocious and shameful record.”

According to yesterday’s article in The Hill, the Obama Administration has threatened to veto H.R. 3301 (thank god), because of the fact that it obviously creates a weaker process that effectively rubber-stamps permit applications and again, eliminates any meaningful environmental review of cross-border energy projects.

“The President and businesses across the nation are moving forward to confront the challenges of climate change, while House Republicans are trying to drive in reverse,” said Rep. Waxman.

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