After six hours of debate Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted 59 to 41 for authorizing what Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer called the “Keystone Extra-Lethal” pipeline and Sen Ed Markey called the “Keystone Export Line.” That was one vote short of the 60-vote threshold needed to approve the legislation pushed by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu and North Dakota Republican John Hoeven, senators from two states with major oil industries.
It was the obviously the hope of many environmental activists that President Obama would choose to veto the authorization bill if it passed. A veto would have been likely since the legislation encroached on an executive process that is much the same as it was when first authorized in 1968.
Here are Democrats who voted for the bill: Sen. John Walsh and Jon Tester of Montana; Joe Manchin III of West Virginia; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; Tom Carper of Delaware; Joe Donnelly of Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Michael Bennet of Colorado; Mark Begich of Alaska; Mark Pryor of Arkansas; Mark Warner of Virginia; Kay Hagan of North Carolina; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
Republicans and Democratic backers of the pipeline noted in debate that the process has been going on for six years, that thousands of jobs would be created directly or indirectly from its construction and operation and that tar sands petroleum carried by the pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast would be moved by other means than Keystone if the XL is rejected. Landrieu, for example, said it’s not true that tar sands oil—heavy sour crude in industry jargon—will be exported. Not economic to do so, she said.
Democratic Sens. Boxer, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ed Markey all gave strong speeches that took the focus beyond opposition to the Keystone bill itself and into the realm of clean energy jobs and climate-change concerns.
Boxer noted that the pipeline will carry “the most polluted type of oil.” She said the State Department’s environmental impact statement—which concluded that Keystone would add extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year equivalent to that of eight new coal-fired plants—conflicts with another scientific study. That study was put together using the State Department’s own numbers by the Stockholm Environmental Institute. It found the added pollution to be equal to that of 29 coal-fired plants, not eight of them. Boxer said the pipeline, carrying the “filthiest, dirtiest oil,” would hurt the environment in many ways, including leaving behind huge amounts of toxins. It would also raise the price of gas, harm people’s health and worsen climate change, she said.
Whitehouse said Republicans have touted the pipeline as a major creator of jobs, something in great dispute. But even if one accepts builder TransCanada’s much-disputed claims of 42,000 direct and indirect jobs being created, the senator said, when Republicans talk about jobs in Congress, it is only about oil pipeline-related jobs. Where, he asked, was concern about clean jobs when the Jeanne Shaheen/Rob Portman energy efficiency legislation was rejected despite the estimate it would create up to 190,000 jobs? It died, Whitehouse said, because Scott Brown, Shaheen’s opponent, didn’t want her to have an accomplishment she could point to in this year’s election.
Ed Markey of Massachusetts labeled the Keystone XL an export line. Oil will travel from Canada to Gulf of Mexico and out of the country, he said, because the company and Republicans have made it clear in a previous vote that they are unwilling to have the law say the tar sands oil cannot be exported. The debate, Markey said, shouldn’t be about oil above all. It should be about clean energy and climate change. He too invoked Shaheen/Portman as well as the 142,000 new jobs generated by the production tax credit on renewable sources of energy. The pipeline shouldn’t be authorized until that debate is had, Markey said.
That certainly would be a helluva debate. Republicans would quote Bible verses and fossil fuel shills. Far-sighted Democrats would cite both the overwhelming majority of scientists on climate change and the policymakers who understand the ample benefits of building green infrastructure. Sadly, we know what the unfortunate outcome of any such a debate would be until the day when some of the marionettes and the clueless are helped to the congressional exits.
From the Daily Kos