Keystone oil pipeline bill fails in Senate

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 8, 2012 8:25pm EST

1 of 3. Protestors rally in front of the Lamar County courthouse where landowner Julia Trigg Crawford is set to go to court in a battle with TransCanada over the trenching of her private property for the Keystone pipeline in Paris, Texas February 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Stone

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican proposal to give a permit to the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline in a vote that will give Republicans more ammunition to criticize President Barack Obama's energy policies on the campaign trail.

Republicans argue the pipeline, which would ship oil from Canada and northern states to Texas, would create jobs and improve energy security at a time of surging gasoline prices.

Obama put TransCanada's $7 billion project on hold earlier this year pending further environmental review. He took the unusual step of calling some senators personally ahead of the vote, asking them to reject the proposal.

"He understood that a majority of the American public, a majority at least in the Senate, are strongly in favor of this project," said Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, who sponsored the bill to take control of the pipeline decision away from Obama.

The Republicans tried to advance their plan as an amendment to a highway funding bill. It failed on a vote of 56-42, four short of the 60 needed to pass, although 11 Democratic senators voted with the Republicans.

Republicans are using the proposal to highlight Obama's delay of the project ahead of November presidential and congressional elections, linking his decision to rising gasoline prices.

"We're going to continue this fight," said Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, who championed the bill.

He told reporters he hoped the measure might still be attached to the highway funding package when the Senate and House of Representatives work on a final version.

"With gas prices going up every day, with what's going on in the Middle East, I'll tell you what: the pressure is just going to increase on the administration to get this project done," Hoeven said.

Obama has supported construction of the southern leg of the pipeline, and his administration will assess a new route around an environmentally sensitive area of Nebraska once it has been identified, said White House spokesman Clark Stevens.

"Once again, Republicans are trying to play politics with a pipeline project whose route has yet to be proposed," Stevens said. The entire project will take more than two years to build once permits are granted.

GREEN GROUP: 'TEMPORARY VICTORY'

The Keystone amendment was among 30 measures - many of them energy-related - being voted on as the Senate pushes in coming days to renew funding for highways and other infrastructure projects, slated to run out at the end of March.

Earlier, the Senate defeated proposals to expand the area available for offshore oil drilling and extend the time for manufacturers to phase in new pollution regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency for industrial boilers.

But the Keystone amendment attracted the most attention. The pipeline would carry crude from Canadian oil sands to Texas refineries and would also pick up U.S. crude from North Dakota and Montana along the way.

Environmental groups have fought the project, staging large protests last year that pressured the Obama administration to block approval.

"Today's vote was a temporary victory and there's no guarantee that it holds for the long run," Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, said in a statement.

"We're grateful to the administration for denying the permit and for Senate leadership for holding the line."

With a 34-64 vote, senators also defeated a proposal from Democratic Senator Ron Wyden that would have blocked exports of oil from the pipeline, as well as refined products made from that oil.

Wyden said lawmakers need to carefully think through projects that would increase exports of oil, fuel and natural gas, lest the exports end up boosting prices for Americans.

"This is just a step in what is clearly going to be an extensive debate," Wyden told Reuters after the vote.

Democratic senators who voted for the Republican Keystone plan included Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia.

Two Republican senators were absent, and all the 45 who were present voted for the amendment.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by Mohammad Zargham and Todd Eastham)

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Comments (6)
McBob08 wrote:
I notice that none of the news agencies are talking about the Fuzzy Math that the Republicans used to determine how many jobs this boondoggle would create. They counted one person working for 1 year as a “job”; thus, 1 person working for 4 years was counted as 4 jobs. So, in truth, take any jobs number the Republicans give you about Keystone, and divide it by 6 for the actual jobs number.

The pipeline will create very few jobs, and will significantly aggravate Climate Change; it’s not worth the cost. In fact, this whole issue should be used as an argument against keeping the Oil Sands operating — if they have to lie to sell the oil, then they shouldn’t be extracting it and selling it at all.

Mar 08, 2012 8:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
amos033 wrote:
when gas tops $5 a gallon remember Presiden Obama and the Senate Democrats at the polls. Even if it takes 2 years to get it done, jobs would be available in it’s construction and it would take 2 years no matter how long the President and senate delays it. Come November and the Senate democrats will be out of a job, maybe they can apply to work on that project.

Mar 08, 2012 11:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
mikefromaz wrote:
One more time…… Oil is an internationally traded commodity just like gold, silver etc. It goes to the highest bidder PERIOD!. The notion that somehow this pipeline with a staggering price tag is going to fill American coffers and increase our “energy independance” is sheer nonsense. Has anyone even thought to ask the question why the Alaskan pipeline packaage back in the late 60′s never included refineries? By the way politicians of the day touted (sold) the Alaskan pipeline as our “ace in the hole for the 21st century”. Now 50 years later the oil from that boondoggle forced on American taxpayers goes to Japan, and South Korea. Finally……the type of oil, oil tar, which would be refined in the Gulf states is so filthy it would turn the air brown with huge amounts of pollution. That is one of the reasons they have left it in the ground for so long, like soft coal. It is dirty, expensive to produce, and controlled by the international market. So how does this end up “”helping America”. The republicans see $$$ nothing more, nothing less. Thi trans America pipeline is a bad dealfor America anyway you look at it.

Mar 09, 2012 7:59am EST  --  Report as abuse
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