Climate

Senate Passes Bill To Approve Construction Of Keystone XL Pipeline

CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez

President Barack Obama arriving at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla. TransCanada is the company vying for approval of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The Senate wrapped up nearly a month of debate on the Keystone XL pipeline on Thursday, voting 62-36 to approve construction of the controversial project.

The bill will now make its way to the House, which has already approved its own separate version of the bill but is said to be taking up the Senate’s version with its amendments next week. When it’s approved in the House, the bill will go to President Obama’s desk.

President Obama has pledged to veto the bill. At the moment, neither the House nor Senate has enough votes to override a veto.

Aside from providing authorization for the construction of Keystone XL — the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline which would transport up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Canada down to the Gulf Coast — the Senate bill also includes five extra provisions that came from approved amendments. Over the last few weeks, the Senate voted on more than 40 amendments to the Keystone bill, ranging from whether climate change exists to whether the EPA should have armed enforcement officers.

The amendments approved include a “sense of the Senate” amendment that states “climate change is real and not a hoax;” a symbolic, but ultimately useless gesture for property rights; and two bipartisan boosts for energy efficiency. More about the passed amendments can be found here.

Following the bill’s passage, environmental groups slammed what was an expected but prolonged decision to approve the pipeline. Most derided the vote as a “gift” to “big oil” — activist group CREDO Action called it “a payback to the Koch brothers, who likely spent more than anyone else to elect the Republican Senate, and also happen to be the largest non-Canadian leaseholder of Canadian tar sands.” The non-profit Oil Change International responded by pushing out the numbers on how much money the Senators who voted in favor of the pipeline took from the fossil fuel industry compared to the Senators who voted against it. According to the group, the Senators that voted for the pipeline took a combined $31,754,343 from the fossil fuel industry, while those who voted against it took $2,672,091.

Nine Democratic senators joined all Republicans in voting for the bill: Sens. Michael Bennet (CO), Tom Carper (DE), Bob Casey (PA), Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Jon Tester (MT), and Mark Warner (VA).

UPDATE

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) voted to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline. It was Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), not Ben Cardin.

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