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South Dakota lawmakers look ahead on Keystone pipeline

The Senate fell four votes short of overriding the White House's veto of the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday, but supporters of the project are not giving up the fight.

Lawmakers in the Senate voted 62-37, failing to get the 66 votes needed to override President Barack Obama's veto.

Members of South Dakota's delegation in Washington said they remain optimistic the project can ultimately proceed, perhaps by being attached to a transportation, infrastructure, energy or government spending bill that the president would be pressured to sign into law.

"We're going to continue to push it," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters. "I can't predict at this point what it might be. All I know is we're going to be looking for opportunities to push this issue forward and put it in front of the president and hoping at some point that he'll come to what we believe is the right conclusion and allow this thing to go forward."

In an interview, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said some lawmakers have talked about adding Keystone to a long-term transportation funding bill because it would likely garner bipartisan support, increasing the chance that the Senate could be successful in overriding another White House veto. A second option would be including it as part of a measure to fund the Environmental Protection Agency - a move that would force the White House to determine if it would be willing to give up funding because of the pipeline.

"We think there is a possibility that (Obama) is going to look at the other side of this, which is, what is it worth to stop this particular economic development project and how much is he willing to lose in order to do that?" Rounds said.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said she was confident Keystone would come before Congress again this year.

The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport oil from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Neb., where it would connect to existing pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries. A significant portion of the pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. would cut through South Dakota.

Keystone, which was proposed in 2008, has come to signify the debate over energy production, jobs and the environment. Proponents say the pipeline would boost employment and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil; opponents argue it would contribute to global warming and create only a few permanent jobs.

Bob Burns, a retired political science professor from South Dakota State University, said the veto override was likely the best opportunity for Republicans to move forward on Keystone, but he was confident Wednesday's vote wasn't the end of the pipeline debate.

"I don't see a quick conclusion," Burns said. "It has really been pole-vaulted to a much more visible controversial issue than what the substance itself might warrant."

Green groups celebrated the outcome. Environment America said the failure of the veto override was "the final demise" for the Keystone.

"Goodbye and good riddance to the Keystone bill," said Anna Aurilio, a director with Environment America. "The decision about piping the world's dirtiest fuel across the U.S. border now rests squarely with the president."

Obama has said he will not make a decision until the State Department, which has jurisdiction on the pipeline because it crosses an international border, reviews the project's impact on the environment, the economy and other issues. There is no timetable for when the review will be completed.

Ken Blanchard, a professor of political science at Northern State University in Aberdeen, said he believed Obama was unlikely to make a decision on Keystone before he leaves office unless it would benefit the Democratic candidate running for president in 2016.