Senate Keystone XL Bill Moves Forward Without A Veto-Proof Majority

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Senate voted to move forward with a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline Monday night, but the chamber did not garner enough Democratic votes to block a White House veto.

A bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia to approve Keystone XL got 63 votes, enough to overcome a filibuster and move forward. The legislation attracted nine Democrats, but failed to get enough liberal lawmakers to block a presidential veto should the bill pass.

“We have everything to gain by building this pipeline, especially since it would help create thousands of jobs right here at home and limit our dependence on foreign oil,” said Manchin, a Democrat. “Every state – including West Virginia – would benefit economically from this activity. It is my sincere hope that we can once and for all move forward with this important project.”

Republicans have made approving the Keystone XL pipeline the first order of business for their new congressional majority. The House passed a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline last week with support from 28 Democratic lawmakers. Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash was the only lawmaker to vote “present” last week. Amash said he supports the pipeline, but does not believe Congress should pass a bill to approve a single pipeline.

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada first applied for a presidential permit to build Keystone XL in 2008. Six years later, the fate of the pipeline is still uncertain as the White House drags its feet on a decision. Keystone has been awaiting approval for more than 2,300 days.

Last year, the State Department indefinitely delayed making a decision on Keystone after a conflict over the pipeline’s route was taken up by the Nebraska state supreme court. But the court ruled in favor of the pipeline last week and now supporters are pushing for President Obama to make a decision.

“We used to be a nation of big ideas and big dreams,” said Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs the House Energy And Commerce Committee. “We imagined building the Hoover Dam and Golden Gate Bridge, and accomplished both feats in far less time than it has taken the president to muster the courage to simply answer yes or no on Keystone. We can do better.”

Democrats and environmentalists, however, argue Keystone XL will harm the environment and accelerate global warming. Pipeline opponents also argue Keystone will be used to export oil abroad and won’t benefits U.S. industries and jobs.

“’Here’s another foregone conclusion: The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would transport Canadian tar sands oil – the dirtiest fuel on the planet – through America’s heartland to be refined and then shipped abroad,” said Danielle Droitsch, the Canadian director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Obama has also been critical of Keystone XL’s economic impacts, downplaying the job creation numbers touted by pipeline supporters. But Obama has said approval of the project will be based on its carbon dioxide emissions, not its economic benefits.

“It would threaten our waters, our lands and worsen carbon pollution. It’s not in our national interest,” Droitsch said.

Obama’s own State Department has found five times that Keystone XL will not harm the environment and will not significantly impact climate.

Pipeline supporters also point to the fact that the Alberta Clipper pipeline was approved by the Obama administration. Construction of the Clipper pipeline was completed last year and will also bring Canadian oil sands into the U.S. — the same oil environmentalists attack Keystone for transporting.

“There are several oil pipelines that cross the Canadian border, and the oil is already moving to market through them,” said Christine Tezak, an analyst with ClearView Energy Partners, told The New York Times. “It seems strange that we’re going through such gyrations over this particular piece of infrastructure, when the State Department said, ‘Oh, sure’ to the Alberta Clipper.”

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