U.S. Senate strikes down Keystone XL pipeline legislation for the ninth time


Credit: AP PHOTO/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Credit: AP PHOTO/Manuel Balce Ceneta

McConnell says the Republicans will pass it anyway when they take control of Congress next year

Last week, the United States Senate voted down a bill that would speed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, falling 1 vote short of the 60 votes required.  Republicans are already promising to reintroduce the bill in January, when they will come into control of both houses of congress.

45 Senate Republicans were joined by 14 Democrats and Independents in favour of the bill. These 59 senators had all voiced public support prior to the vote, and were looking for a 60th vote to secure the bill’s passage.

Passage of the bill would have authorized Calgary-based TransCanada Corporation, the company behind the pipeline project, to “construct, connect, operate, and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities.”

The aim of the bill is to circumvent the White House’s own environmental review process, which is still ongoing with regards to the proposed pipeline, and even if passed would likely face a veto from President Obama.

Republican’s obtaining the required 67 Senate votes needed to overrule a presidential veto is dubious at best. It is likely that the pipeline will not move forward during the rest of President Obama’s term, especially with his focus on climate change at the G20 summit earlier this month.

The Keystone XL pipeline seeks to transport raw materials from Albertan oilsands to refineries on the United States Gulf Coast.

Last week marks the ninth time that the pipeline has been approved by the Republican controlled House of Representatives, only to be shot down in the Senate, which will also be under Republican control in the new year.

“I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone Jobs bill early in the new year” said incoming majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell, within minutes of the vote’s results.

Many Republican supporters of the pipeline acknowledge the amount of jobs that will be created, often citing TransCanada Corps figure of over 100 000.  This has been contradicted by a recent study by the State Department, which found that the pipeline will create between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs, most of which will be temporary.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Greg Rickford, expressed his disappointment that politics continues to delay a final decision on Keystone.  “This project will create jobs, long-term economic prosperity, energy security and environmental stewardship on both sides of our shared border,” said Rickford.  He continued to argue that the pipeline has “strong public support”, is “environmentally sound”, and that it would replace insecure sources of crude oil.

Rickford also disputed Obama’s claim that the pipeline would have a negligible impact on the U.S. economy at best.  The President said the pipeline was only “providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else… That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.” Obama has refused to approve the pipeline since taking office, and will presumably veto any legislation attempting to give it the go-ahead.

The State Department also disputed the President’s claims, saying that the vast majority of the crude oil would end up in refineries in North America, where it will be processed and sold.

Obama’s tough posturing on the Keystone issue should not come as a surprise, however, as the president has staked his administration’s legacy on climate change initiatives. After the Democrats were drubbed in the midterm elections, Obama is eager to finally show after six years that he means it.

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