Keystone XL Absent From White House Budget

WASHINGTON -- The White House budget released Wednesday highlighted President Barack Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy, yet conspicuously absent is any mention of Keystone XL, the controversial oil pipeline proposal being reviewed by the State Department.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Republicans had included funding for the $7 billion pipeline in their own budget and have been pressing the White House in budget talks to do the same.

The GOP House plan, which aims to encourage domestic energy development, would force the Obama administration to approve Keystone XL. The funds included for its construction underscore the importance the GOP has placed on the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

The Republican efforts received a boost last month when the Senate easily passed a symbolic measure, sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), to give Congress the power to green-light Keystone XL later in the year. "I think it shows strong support for the project," Hoeven said in an interview with Newsmax after the vote. "I think where we are is the president needs to move forward and approve it, and I think if he doesn't, we've shown there's approval to do it congressionally."

Obama is also under considerable pressure from the oil industry and many labor unions to support the project. But environmentalists are vehemently opposed, pointing to a long history of leaky pipelines as well as predicted disastrous effects on the global climate.

The White House budget also includes funding to boost communities' resilience in the face of climate change, increases in Interior Department revenue through higher royalty rates on energy production, closure of loopholes for oil and gas producers, and permanent tax provisions for renewable energy.

The administration is expected to make a decision on Keystone XL this summer, following the conclusion of the State Department's review.

Juliet Eilperin, writing for The Washington Post, notes that proponents might be able to override Obama (if he says no) and force pipeline approval through Congress, provided they can attract a few more Democrats to their side. Environmental groups have threatened to fight such a maneuver in federal court.