In January 2015, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that authorizes the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a decision that will allow the proposed route of the pipeline to proceed through Nebraska. Supporters of the pipeline cheered these significant results. Other obstacles, however, are appearing in their path. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill passed by Congress. Furthermore, landowners in Nebraska filed two new lawsuits in January that could cause additional delays. Thus, despite achievements that are bringing the pipeline closer to construction, the pipeline's future is uncertain and debate on the issue will continue.
Upon winning control of the Senate in the November 2014 midterm elections, Republicans pledged that they would make the Keystone Pipeline the new Senate's first order of business. On January 6, Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the first bill of the new Senate – the "Keystone XL Pipeline Act" – to authorize construction of the pipeline. This bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 9. On the same day, the Nebraska Supreme Court released its decision that allows the proposed route of the pipeline to move forward.
Although supporters of the pipeline welcomed these developments, they continue to have reason for concern. On January 6, a White House spokesman said that President Obama would veto the pipeline bill if passed by Congress. In his State of the Union address on January 20, President Obama encouraged the country to "set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline" but did not mention his threat to veto the bill. In addition to this announcement, two new lawsuits in Nebraska also threaten to cause additional delays for the construction of the pipeline.
Despite President Obama's veto threat, which his spokesman repeated on January 29, the Senate passed the bill on the same day. The Senate bill has been slightly modified from the version approved by the House in early January. Therefore, the bill will not go to the President's desk until either the House approves the Senate version of the bill or a conference bill is agreed to by both chambers. If President Obama signs the bill into law, or if Congress overrides a veto, the law would authorize the construction of the pipeline. It appears likely, however, that President Obama will veto any bill reaching his desk. Congress could override this veto with votes from two thirds of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but many believe that there is not enough support in either chamber to override a veto on this bill.
Although Congress is very close to authorizing the pipeline, and the Nebraska Supreme Court allowed the proposed route to proceed, the pipeline's future remains uncertain due to President Obama's veto threat and new lawsuits in Nebraska. Thus, the debate over the pipeline and its role in U.S. energy policy will continue for the foreseeable future.