Keystone XL pipeline bill fails to pass US Senate by 1 vote

Keystone XL pipeline bill fails to pass US Senate by 1 vote
The US Senate failed to fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline project, falling one vote short of breaking a filibuster against the bill, which would have allowed the transport of crude oil from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill failed despite garnering 59 “Yes” votes to 41 “No” votes. All Republican senators voted “Yes,” and they were joined by 14 Democrats. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who co-sponsored the bill, needed one more vote to pass it but could not persuade another Democrat to go along.

Landrieu, the chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, originally introduced the measure confident that there was enough support for the tar sands pipeline. The senator is facing a run-off election for her seat on December 6 and wanted to be seen as a key player in the pipeline project's passage.

Earlier today, the White House indicated that President Barack Obama would veto legislation fast-tracking the Keystone pipeline. A spokesman said Obama does not support the legislation because it’s a decision that should be made through “the regular process.”

The Obama administration will have to make a “national interest” determination on the pipeline, which will take in factors like economics, geopolitics and the environment. One of the president’s main concerns is whether the project will “significantly exacerbate” carbon-dioxide emissions.

However, with Republicans taking control of both the House and Senate next year, they are likely to fast-track approval next year. The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (Ky.), already said the new Congress will quickly arrange a vote on the project. If passed, President Obama would have to decide whether or not to veto the bill.

“Senate Democrats once again stood in the way of a shovel-ready jobs project that would help thousands of Americans find work,” McConnell said in statement. “Once the 114th Congress convenes, the Senate will act again on this important legislation, and I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the New Year.”

The project would transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada down to Nebraska. Over the last decade, oil companies have started extracting oil from Alberta’s tar sands, but the gooey mix of sand, clay and oil is difficult to ship to refineries to turn it into usable fuel. The pipeline would help by offering a connection to refineries in Texas. Labor unions support the project because it would bring 42,000 jobs over its two-year construction period, with just 35 permanent jobs.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, say producing oil from Canada’s tar sands is energy-intensive and will add 17 percent more carbon dioxide than regular oil production over the project's life-cycle, exacerbating global warming. Opponents are also concerned that the pipeline will put nearby communities at risk of oil spills into water supplies.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who was considered a "swing vote" regarding the the bill, said it was not Congress' place to decide Keystone's fate.

"Congress is not -- nor should it be -- in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project," he said in a statement. "And while I am frustrated that the President has refused to make a decision on the future of the pipeline, I don’t believe that short-circuiting the process to circumvent his Administration is in the best interest of the American people."