The Senate voted 62-36 to approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, forcing a showdown with President Obama, who has promised to veto the bill.
The controversial $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline is a Canadian-owned project that would carry more than 800,000 barrels a day of bituminous crude from the Alberta oil sands through Indian country and American states to refineries in Texas, then on to Gulf Coast ports for shipping to world markets.
The vote on Thursday, January 28, followed three weeks of what is called “regular order – the process of proposing, debating and voting on amendments. Around 250 amendments were proposed; the Senate voted on around 40 of them.
S. 1 – “To Approve the Keystone Pipeline” – was the first Senate bill of the 114th Congress.
Nine Democrats joined 53 Republicans to pass the bill, but the vote fell short of the 67 required to overcome a presidential veto. The president has executive authority to approve or reject projects that cross the international border and Obama has promised to veto the project while the review process is still underway.
Keystone is almost universally loathed by Indian country, environmentalists and ranchers. Anticipating the Senate’s vote of approval, the following environmental organizations issued individual statements in a collective media release shortly after the vote was announced:
Environmental, Landowner Groups Respond to Senate Vote on Keystone XL
This afternoon, the Senate voted to support a foreign oil corporation at the expense of American interests by passing legislation that would force approval of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would threaten land and water along its route and have a disastrous impact on carbon emissions and climate change.
Environmental and landowner groups reacted to the passage of this legislation, which President Obama has already committed to veto, by urging him to finally close the book on this toxic project and reject the permit for the pipeline once and for all. Pipeline fighters from across the United States have already sent over 1,100 veto and reject pens to President Obama, with more on the way. Photos of the pens are available here.
Jane Kleeb, Director of Bold Nebraska: “Senators who love Keystone just voted to approve eminent domain for private gain and to risk our water, all for one foreign corporation. The good news for landowners in the Heartland is President Obama cares about our land and water and will veto this reckless bill. Farmers and ranchers need stability in their government so they can plan crops and development of their land. A full rejection of Keystone cannot come soon enough for landowners.”
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club: “Ultimately, the Republican Senate’s tar sands tactics are going to amount to nothing. President Obama has made it clear he will reject these attacks on his authority and repeatedly stated that he will reject the tar sands pipeline if it contributes to the climate crisis. The President has all the evidence he needs to reject Keystone XL now, and we are confident that he will.”
Danielle Droitsch, Director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Canada project: “The new, Republican-controlled Congress just delivered a New Year’s present to big polluters, with the Senate passage of a bill that would force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The vote follows a similar measure approved by the House on January 9. President Obama should swiftly veto this legislation – and then reject the proposed pipeline once and for all. The project would transport Canadian tar sands oil – the dirtiest fuel on the planet – through America’s heartland, only to be refined and then shipped abroad. It would threaten our waters, our lands and worsen carbon pollution. It’s absolutely not in our national interest.’’
League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld: “This dirty and dangerous bill is soon to meet its well-deserved fate – a presidential veto. We remain confident that President Obama will continue to build on his incredible climate leadership by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all. It’s no surprise that Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell’s first order of business was standing with polluters, but the debate over the last several weeks provided ample opportunity for senators to show whose side they’re on. On vote after vote, senators faced a choice between standing with polluters and protecting our air, land, water, and climate for future generations. We commend those senators who consistently chose the latter.”
350.org Executive Director May Boeve: “Given the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on our political system, it’s no longer even surprising that this Congress has made it their number one priority to try and force approval of an oil pipeline, instead of addressing the wide range of real issues confronting American families. But thankfully, this vote is a farce—because Keystone XL is a decision for President Obama, not the Climate Denial Congress. As the President himself has pointed out, Keystone would worsen climate change, threaten the livelihood of tribes and landowners along the route, and create essentially no long-term jobs—all so a Canadian company gets to ship dirty oil to the rest of the world. That’s why we’re looking to the President to follow through on his word, veto this bill, and then reject the permit application for this pipeline for good.”
Bill Snape, Senior Counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity: “The new congressional majority simply doesn't get that climate change is happening now, that handing our lands over to foreign corporations is wrong, and that clean water and healthy wildlife are more important than a pipeline full of super dirty oil that we don't even need. President Obama needs to veto this sham immediately.”
Stephen Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International: “The Senate has voted to approve Keystone XL, and has chosen to once again side with Big Oil's money over our climate and our future. In other news, the sun will set in the west this evening. We look forward to the President's veto of this bill, and his ultimate rejection of the permit for this dangerous tar sands pipeline.”
Elijah Zarlin, Senior Campaign Manager at CREDO: “The Republican's Keystone XL obsession is about one thing and one thing only – a direct payback to Big Oil, specifically 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 in the Alberta tar sands. The American people oppose Congress forcing a decision on Keystone XL, and given the actual problems we are facing and the solutions available, the notion that Keystone XL should be the first or highest priority of Congress is literally insulting. As long as they continue their Keystone XL obsession, Republicans are turning their back on the American people.”
Victor Menotti, Executive Director of the International Forum on Globalization: “The Senate’s passage of a bill to force approval of the Keystone pipeline shows that Republicans have prioritized the financial interests of their top donors, particularly Charles and David Koch, who have more acreage in Alberta than Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco combined. Call it the “plutocrats pay-off,” since Koch outspent all other oil companies and individuals to deliver a dozen new Senators from 2014 elections. Now is the time for President Obama to not just veto but also reject the pipeline since it clearly is not in our national interest, whereas Keystone XL's biggest beneficiaries could be the two billionaire brothers who are a danger to democracy and lead the opposition to climate action."