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S. 1 (114th): Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act

On the first day of this Congress, January 3, 2015, 241 bills were introduced in the House and Senate. Legislation introduced on Day 1 is often meant to send a bold statement that “these are our top priorities” by party leadership, so the bill labeled S. 1 is hugely important. S. 1 in the current Senate — as well as H.R. 3 in the House — was the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, addressing a contentious issue related to energy, the environment, and jobs.

A pipeline of over 1,000 miles proposed by the company TransCanada to transport oil from Canada to the U.S., the Keystone XL project became a litmus test among environmental groups and progressives who argued that construction would perpetuate our reliance on fossil fuels and increase the risk of a spill or similar natural disaster. Republicans — many of whom deny that man-made climate change exists — had no qualms with the environmental concerns and claimed the project would create “thousands of jobs,” although the State Department estimated it would only be 35 jobs.

In November 2014, after the midterm elections but prior to the new Congress convening, the Senate voted on a bill introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) that would have approved the construction, but it lost by a single vote. The vote was 59 in favor to 41 against, but it needed 60 votes to pass. Every Republican voted in favor, while Democrats were largely opposed 14–39, although some Democrats — especially those in midwestern and Great Plains states where the project would physically pass through — voted in favor. Republicans, in the Senate minority at the time, vowed the pipeline would be one of their top priorities upon taking over the majority two months later.

Sure enough, Sen. Hoeven promptly sponsored the bill again as the first order of business for the new Senate. Only a few weeks after in late January 2015, the Senate approved it 62 to 36, barely clearing the 60-vote threshold needed, again with every Republican in favor and Democrats even more opposed than before with 9–34 against. This was followed by the House voting 270–152 in favor that February, with every Republican except Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI3) in favor and Democrats 29–151 against.

The votes were seen as a direct rebuke to President Obama’s oppositionannounced a few months prior. Sure enough, Obama vetoed the bill in late February 2015, only the third veto of his presidency and the first on what was considered to be “meaningful” legislation. The Senate attempted to override the veto, which required 67 votes, but the veto override vote was 62–37, killing the bill during this Congress.

Don’t be surprised if it’s one of the first bills that Republicans introduce in the next Congress, whether they retain their majorities or not — likely to be introduced by Sen. Hoeven again for the third Congress in a row. (Though Hoeven running for reelection in North Dakota, he is considered a virtual lock to keep the seat.) If a Democrat wins the presidency, Republicans will attempt to shame the White House for opposing a “job creating” project; if a Republican wins, the pipeline would likely be approved.

With Hillary Clinton opposing the pipeline and currently leading in presidential polls, the Keystone pipeline seems unlikely to be enacted this year. But if Donald Trump’s campaign closes the gap in national polls, his vow to approve the pipeline under the claim that it would have “no impact” on the environment could be fulfilled. Even then, his plan to give a share of the profits back to American taxpayers instead of just for the TransCanada organization would likely run afoul of World Trade Organization agreementsto which the U.S. is a party.

Last updated Jul 18, 2016. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Feb 11, 2015.

(This measure has not been amended since it was passed by the Senate on January 29, 2015. The summary of that version is repeated here.)

Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act

(Sec. 2) Authorizes TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to construct, connect, operate, and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities specified in an application filed by TransCanada Corporation to the Department of State on May 4, 2012.

Deems the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement regarding the pipeline issued by the Secretary of State in January 2014 to fully satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and any law that requires federal agency consultation or review, including the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Maintains in effect any applicable federal permit or authorization issued before enactment of this Act.

Grants original and exclusive jurisdiction, except for review in the Supreme Court, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over any civil action for the review of a federal agency action regarding the pipeline and related facilities.

Declares that this Act does not alter any federal, state, or local process or condition in effect on the date of enactment of this Act that is necessary to secure access from an owner of private property to construct the pipeline and cross-border facilities.

Allows acquisition of land or an interest in land for the pipeline and cross-border facilities only in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

(Sec. 3) Directs the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to act as the lead federal agency for coordinating and disseminating information on existing federal programs and assistance that may be used to help initiate, develop, and finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy retrofitting projects for schools.

Requires DOE to: (1) carry out a review of existing programs and financing mechanisms available in or from appropriate federal agencies with jurisdiction over energy financing and facilitation that are currently used or may be used for such purposes; (2) establish a federal collaborative coordination, education, and outreach effort to streamline communication and promote available federal opportunities and assistance for such projects that enables states, local educational agencies, and schools to use federal opportunities more effectively and to form partnerships with governors, state energy programs, state and local officials, nonprofit organizations, and other entities to support project initiation; (3) provide technical assistance for states, local educational agencies, and schools to help develop and finance projects that meet specified requirements; (4) develop and maintain a single website with contact information for relevant technical assistance and support staff in the Office for states, local educational agencies, and schools to effectively access and use federal opportunities and assistance to develop such projects; and (5) establish a process for recognition of schools that have successfully implemented such projects and are willing to serve as resources for other local educational agencies and schools to assist similar efforts.

(Sec. 4) Declares that nothing in this Act relieves the United States of its responsibility to consult with Indian nations as required under Executive Order 13175.

(Sec. 5) Expresses the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.

(Sec. 6) Expresses the sense of the Senate that Congress should approve a bill, originated by the House, to ensure that all forms of bitumen or synthetic crude oil derived from bitumen are subject to the per-barrel excise tax associated with the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.


Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015


Better Buildings Act of 2015

(Sec. 102) Requires the General Services Administration, in consultation with DOE, to develop and publish model commercial leasing provisions for use in leasing documents that designate a federal agency as a landlord or tenant that encourage building owners and tenants to invest in cost-effective energy and water efficiency measures.

Requires the Administrator to: (1) develop policies and best practices to implement such measures for the realty services; and (2) make available such model leasing provisions and best practices to state and local governments for use in managing owned and leased building space to encourage investment in such energy and water efficiency measures.

(Sec. 103) Amends the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to require DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to study the feasibility of: (1) significantly improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings through the design and construction of separate spaces with high-performance energy efficiency measures, and (2) encouraging owners and tenants to implement such measures in separate spaces. Requires the Secretary to publish such study on DOE's website.

(Sec. 104) Requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a voluntary Tenant Star program within the Energy Star program to recognize tenants in commercial buildings that voluntarily achieve high levels of energy efficiency in separate spaces. Requires the Administrator of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to collect data on categories of building occupancy that consume significant quantities of energy and on other aspects of the property, building operation, or building occupancy determined to be relevant to lowering energy consumption. Requires the EIA, with respect to the first such survey conducted after enactment of this Act, to the extent full compliance with the data collection requirements is not feasible, to conduct activities to develop the capability to collect such data and to begin such collection.


(Sec. 201) Amends the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) to provide additional energy conservation standards applicable to grid-enabled water heaters for use as part of an electric thermal storage or demand response program (a program that enables customers to reduce or shift their power use during peak demand periods).

Requires annual reports from: (1) manufacturers of such water heaters regarding the quantity of the products shipped each year, and (2) utilities and other demand response and thermal storage program operators regarding the quantity of products activated for their programs.

Requires the Secretary to publish analyses of data collected from such reports and to establish procedures to prevent product diversion if sales of the products exceed by at least 15% the quantity activated for use in the demand response and thermal storage programs annually.

Maintains the standards and publication procedures established by this Act until DOE determines that: (1) such water heaters do not require a separate efficiency requirement, or (2) procedures to prevent product diversion for non-program purposes would not be adequate to prevent such product diversion.

Requires DOE to consider the impact of EPCA electric water heater standards on thermal storage and demand response programs, including on energy savings, electric bills, peak load reduction, electric reliability, integration of renewable resources, and the environment.

Directs DOE to require the water heaters be equipped with communication capability to enable the grid-enabled water heaters to participate in ancillary services programs if the technology is available, practical, and cost-effective.

Makes it unlawful for any person to: (1) activate an activation lock for a grid-enabled water heater with knowledge that it is not used as part of such program, (2) distribute an activation key for such a water heater with knowledge that it will be used to activate a heater that is not used as part of the program, (3) enable such water heater to operate at its designed specification and capabilities with knowledge that it is not used as part of the program, or (4) knowingly remove or render illegible the label of a such water heater.


(Sec. 301) Amends the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to revise exceptions to the requirement that federal agencies must lease space in buildings that have earned the Energy Star label.

Requires a space leased by an agency in a building that has not earned the Energy Star label to be benchmarked under a nationally recognized, online, free benchmarking program, with public disclosure. Exempts from such requirement a space for which owners cannot access whole building utility consumption data. Requires an agency that is a tenant of a space that has not earned such label to provide to a building owner, or authorize the owner to obtain from the utility, the energy consumption information of the space for the benchmarking and disclosure requirements.

Requires DOE to study and report on: (1) the impact of state and local performance benchmarking and disclosure policies, and any associated building efficiency policies, for commercial and multifamily buildings and the impact of programs and systems in which utilities provide aggregated information regarding whole building energy consumption and usage information to owners of multitenant commercial, residential, and mixed-use buildings; and (2) best practice policy approaches that have resulted in the greatest improvements in building energy efficiency.

Directs DOE to maintain, and if necessary create, a database to store and make publicly available energy-related information on commercial and multifamily buildings. Requires the database to complement, but not duplicate, the functions of the EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool.