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Tom Murse

Keystone XL Pipeline Supporters in Congress Want to Bypass the Obama Administration. Can They?

By May 6, 2013

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Keystone XL Pipeline protestorsCan Congress bypass President Barack Obama and his administration's lengthy environmental review of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project?

It's not clear, but that uncertainty isn't stopping those who believe construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline will create thousands of jobs and reduce the nation's reliance on oil from the Middle East.

They're pushing legislation that would allow the $7.6 billion project to proceed without a presidential permit so that the pipeline can carry tar sands oil across 1,179 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, and eventually down to the Gulf of Mexico.

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The Northern Route Approval Act is authored by U.S. Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, one of the states pipeline would cross from Canada. The legislation would exempt the Keystone XL Pipeline from the permit requirement even though it would cross an international borders.

The Department of State is statutorily responsible for determining whether the pipeline project would serve the "national interest," but Terry's bill would seek an end run around the permitting process.

"My bill, H.R. 3, ends the long, drawn out process of delay-by-review and allows us to begin building the Keystone pipeline. This issue has been studied in-depth. There are more pages of review on the Keystone Pipeline than make up The Bible, War and Peace, Atlas Shrugged and Obamacare - combined," Terry said.

"The scientists at the State Department continue to say that there will be no significant impacts to the environment. There is no reason we should continue the delays."

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved the legislation, and the full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the proposal in May

"In line with our underlying principles for legislation and our goal of helping make life work for American families and businesses, I expect the House to have a full legislative agenda in May. We will push the administration to finally approve the Keystone pipeline delivering much needed jobs and lower energy prices for families," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a memo.

The House is widely expected to approved the measure. But would Congress be on solid constitutional ground by making an end run around the president?

Reports the Congressional Research Service: "Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to 'regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.' Whereas any independent presidential authority in matters affecting foreign commerce derives from the President's more general foreign affairs authority, Congress's power over foreign commerce is plainly enumerated by the Constitution, suggesting that its authority in this field is preeminent."

That's a long way of saying, Yes, Congress could very well circumvent the president and allow the Keystone XL Pipeline project to move forward.

[Getty Images News photo: Protestors oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline project.]

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