The United States Senate voted Tuesday evening to kill the Keystone XL pipeline measure with a final vote count of 59 in favor to 41 opposed.
The senate began the six hour debate on bill S. 2280 early Tuesday morning. Sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), the vote would approve the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline by overriding the President’s authority to permit international construction projects.
An arsenal of senators from both sides of the elongated debate contributed comments during the six-hour allotted time. Going into the debate, the 45 Republican senators were signed on for a “yes” vote. All the while, Bill co-sponsor Mary Landrieu tirelessly searched for at least one critical blue vote needed to obtain the 60 in total for passing the landmark piece of legislation.
Hoeven told MSNBC early Tuesday morning, “We’re at 59 votes confirmed. We’ve got a couple of maybes. I think there’s one or two more that may join. So I think we have a good shot to get it.”
Last week the House voted 252-161 in favor of an identical measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La. Many proponents of the Keystone expressed the relief and redundancy of the long-awaited senate move.
“We’ve passed legislation on the Keystone XL already. This is not the first time. We’ve submitted numerous pieces of legislation,” Hoeven stated on the Senate floor. “The president is unwilling to make a decision, and I say that based on his actions. This is about the American people making the case. This is about energy, jobs, and economic growth.”
According to a statement by Alaska’s Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, 19 pipelines already exists crossing the border between Canada and the United states.
But the Keystone has become more than a discourse around energy infrastructure. It has become a symbolic hallmark in the clash between environmental action and pursuits of hard energy production. Many green-friendly Senators, including Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer D-Ca., spent time reiterating the environmental concerns of the Keystone XL.
“Misery follows the pipeline. It’s called XL which should stand for ‘extra lethal.’ A 45 percent increase in tar sand production means a 45 percent increase in hazardous metals and pollutions like lead and sulfur from the dirtiest oil on the planet,” Boxer stated as she switched between slides of oil spills and cloudy, polluted landscapes. “In terms of carbon emissions, this pipeline is the equivalent of adding emissions from 29 dirty coal-fired power plants to our environment.”
Bill co-sponsor Mary Landrieu D-Louisiana made note that of the five environmental impact studies, all claimed the Keystone was safe for tar sands oil transportation. “According to the 5th E.I.S., one that was sponsored by the President’s administration, if the Keystone is built, it will only contribute .015 global greenhouse gas emissions. The equivalent of 300,000 cars.”
Building a pipeline for foreign oil transportation was also a hot button issue among senators. Many congressional members felt that America was taking all the risks without much benefit in return.
“Canadians object to a 700 mile [tar sands] pipeline cutting through their own country because they don’t want the environmental risks,” Stated Sen. Ben Cardin D-Md. Fellow colleague Sen. Boxer also pointed out the faultiness of the environmental impact studies by revealing that all five surveyed former pipeline routes and did not survey the newest up-to-date routes.
Other opponents depicted the Keystone as a way for a foreign company to take advantage of pro-oil American ideology. Most notably, Sen. Jeff Merkley D-Ore., urged his associate senators not to give a foreign corporation the “power of eminent domain” to seize land from American citizens.
“Trans-Canada is exempted from contributing to the Oil Spill Liability Fund. That’s outrageous. You could call this bill the Trans Canada Protection Act,” Argued Merkley. “When this pipeline spills we would use money from the Oil Spill liability fund to clean it up. Why would we make American oil companies pay for [Trans-Canada’s] mistake?”
Hoeven, however, sees Keystone as an opportunity to work with our closest ally towards energy independence. “This won’t cost one penny in government spending. It’s privately funded. This is about national security. One of the best ways to strengthen our country is to make sure we’re energy secure.”
Landrieu added, “When I say energy independence, with projects like Keystone we can make this possible for the entire North American Continent.”
However, with our own current Shale revolution, and the fact that after refining, the tar sands crude will be exported outside American borders, President Barack Obama is still not keen on the benefits of the project. Recently, Mr. Obama made a comment captured on video about the pipeline that did not paint a pretty future for the project. Most opponents and supporters alike were expecting Obama to veto the bill.