Keystone Pipeline Bill Dies In The Senate, For Now

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March 2012: Pipes are ready to be put in place for the Keystone pipeline in Cushing, Oklahoma.

WASHINGTON (CNN)- The Senate blocked a measure Tuesday (Nov. 18) that would have authorized construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as Democrats chose their pro-environment base over an old friend — embattled Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu.

The vote could just be a speed bump for the Keystone project, with Republicans ready to try again — with much better odds of success — once they take control of the Senate in January.

“This will be an early item on the agenda in the next Congress,” incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after Tuesday night’s vote.

But it’s a sharp blow to Landrieu, who had based much of her campaign for re-election in a December runoff on the argument that she could deliver results. For days she had insisted that she had the 60 supporters necessary to cross a key procedural threshold, only to fall one vote shy on Tuesday night.

“This is for Americans, for American jobs, to build an American middle class, and it will create 40,000 immediate jobs,” Landrieu said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “If the people of this Congress haven’t noticed, there’s a long unemployment line in some parts of this country.”

The vote served as a preview of the confrontations that lie ahead in Washington. President Barack Obama is on track to overhaul immigration rules on his own by the end of the year — a move that is pushing some conservatives to consider shutting down the government in retaliation.

And as soon as the new Republican Congress is sworn in next year, Keystone will be back on the agenda, along with efforts to curtail Obamacare, raising the prospect of Obama issuing a series of vetoes.

But for all the battles that lie ahead, Tuesday’s vote was really about local politics. Louisiana’s Senate race is headed for a Dec. 6 runoff election, and Landrieu — currently the Senate Energy and Natural Resources chairwoman — saw the pipeline as a final chance to demonstrate her clout to voters in an energy-rich state.

Republicans responded by guaranteeing her opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, a seat on the energy committee. The House GOP also had him sponsor their own Keystone authorization bill, which was approved Friday on a 252-161 vote.

Cassidy rubbed salt in Landrieu’s wound Tuesday, with his spokesman saying the vote was “perfect snapshot of her time as chair of the Energy Committee — a failure.”

Right now, the decision on whether to approve the Canada-to-Texas pipeline is in the hands of the State Department. Obama has said repeatedly in recent days that he wants Congress to stay out of it and leave it to State to finish its review of — among other factors — whether the pipeline would contribute to carbon pollution the could cause climate change.

“There is a process underway and the president is confident that that process will carefully evaluate the consequences of this specific proposal and that that’s the proper way for a decision like this to be made,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

Six years into that review, though, lawmakers have grown impatient.

“This process has not worked. This process has not brought this project some sort of finality — yes or no?” North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, one of the pipeline’s most outspoken Democratic supporters, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Liberal Senate Democrats like California’s Barbara Boxer railed against the pipeline Tuesday, arguing that the environmental harm it could cause far outweighs the potential economic gains.

Boxer pointed to potential health risks of laying the pipeline, including heart disease, increased hospitalization, and a higher prevalence of chemicals that “penetrate deeply into the lungs.”

“The facts are the facts are the facts,” she said. “If you’re not a scientist than be humble and listen to the peer-reviewed scientists. They don’t have a special interest. They have an interest in giving us information we should base our decisions upon. “

Boxer also referred to the project as the “Keystone Extra Lethal Pipeline.”

The Keystone debate on Tuesday pitted traditional Democratic allies against each other.

Many of the Democratic no votes were longtime friends and supporters of Landrieu who had contributed tens of thousands to her campaign.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) all contributed $7,000 or more to her campaign, and all opposed passage of the bill.

In the lead-up to Tuesday night’s vote, the big question was whether Landrieu could find the 60 supporters necessary to clear a key procedural threshold.

In addition to the chamber’s 45 Republicans, all of whom were expected to support the bill, Landrieu was joined by 10 more Democratic co-sponsors: Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Montana Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Sen. John Walsh, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

Three more Democrats had pledged last week to support the measure: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey.

That left her one vote short — and her options looked limited. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller said Monday night that he was a no vote. Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said Tuesday that he wouldn’t support it.

“Congress is not — nor should it be — in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project,” King said in a statement.

The proposed Keystone XL Project consists of a 1,700-mile crude oil pipeline and related facilities that would primarily be used to transport Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crude oil from an oil supply hub in Alberta, Canada to delivery points in Oklahoma and Texas. (According to the U.S. Department of State)

The proposed Keystone XL Project consists of a 1,700-mile crude oil pipeline and related facilities that would primarily be used to transport Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crude oil from an oil supply hub in Alberta, Canada to delivery points in Oklahoma and Texas. (According to the U.S. Department of State)

LITTLE ROCK (KFSM)- U.S. Senator John Boozeman (R-AR) issued the following statement in response to the Keystone XL Pipeline vote:

“The Keystone Pipeline proposal has been studied to death. Every box has been checked. Our friends to the north are moving ahead with or without us. It is a shame that the administration and some of my colleagues are choosing the latter,” Boozman said. “The good news is we should be able to pass this job creating bill when the Republicans take control of the Senate in the coming year.”


  • Dino69

    Typical liberal rag. Calling those who voted against this “pro-environment” suttly misleads readers into thinking those who voted for the pipeline are against the environment. You should have labeled your fellow liberals as environmental extremists or wackos. Because that is what they are. The bias in your stories is predictable and tired.

  • Richard S. Drake

    How sad that so many just repeat the talking points from talk radio and politicians who would manipulate them.
    All this rancor over a pipeline which only would provide THIRTY FIVE fulltime jobs, NONE of the oil goes to Americans, and gas prices will NOT go down?
    And What is the benefit, again?
    PLEASE study the issue!

    • Kevin

      I find your comment interesting Richie. These 35 jobs are families that could be in great need. I do believe in previous comments you spoke of the tyranny of the majority. I do believe the 35 candidates for this job are the minority and the liberals voting are the majority. Please explain your flipflopping views.

      • Sarah 4.0

        35 families do not equate to 7 states and fifty million people.
        It is Canadian Tar Sand Oil. To run it through a  pipe line they have to mix it with 150 different toxic chemicals,heat it and move it through the pipe line at 2500 psi. It will travel under ground over the Oglala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to the people , cattle and crops in 7 States.  The bill clears the Canadian company of any fault for spills and any clean up costs. Tar Oil Sand sandblasts the inside of the pipeline and when it leaks out at 2500 psi it sinks in water. If it springs a leak over the Oglala Aquifer it will sink and could take years to find.
        Canadian Tar Oil Sands is to be pumped to American refineries to be refined taking those refineries off line to refining AMERICAN CONSUMER PETROLEUM PRODUCTS CAUSING GAS PRICES TO GO UP $.50 or more a gallon. Those refineries are located in Texas in what’s called a
        ” FOREIGN FREE TAX ZONE “. The contracts for the refined products  are already filled and none the contracts are for America consumption. The only thing We Amercan citizens are getting in the congressional SCAM is the toxic waste left after refining, higher gas prices, and a MAJOR WATER SHORTAGE NATION WIDE WHEN THE PIPE LINE LEAKS, not to mention the expense to clean it up . Research OGLALA AQUIFER.

  • Horace

    Thank you for that, Sarah. When that thing leaks–and it will, we run the risk of ruining the Oglala aquifer for the next several hundred years. Is anything worth that? Certainly not in my mind.

    • Sarah 4.0

      Thank you Horace. As a researcher I look at valid points vs. invalid facts. Look at Mayflower? Perfect example of an oil spill tragedy.
      At some time we have to face the facts that the very very wealthy can move to another country and enjoy oil free water but local folks will always be local folks.

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