The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate on Tuesday killed two Democratic amendments to legislation approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline while approving a bipartisan energy efficiency amendment, as the chamber kicked off debate over the bill that still faces the threat of a presidential veto in its current form.
The Keystone XL pipeline will carry tar sands crude oil 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. Pipeline owner TransCanada Corp. has already secured the necessary permits for the 485 miles of the pipeline running from the crude market hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, to refineries near Port Arthur, Texas, after deciding to split the lower segment from the more contentious northern route that runs into Canada.
An amendment offered by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., that would prohibit the export of any oil transported through the pipeline was tabled by a majority vote, preventing it from actually being voted on. An amendment offered by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., that would require the pipeline be built with U.S. materials met a similar fate.
However, the Senate overwhelmingly passed an amendment that serves as a scaled-down version of energy efficiency legislation championed by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
Still, the dozens of amendments, including ones that call for the Senate to acknowledge the existence of climate change, that will be considered over the next several days may ultimately be moot. President Barack Obama has pledged to veto the bill, of which a version has already passed the House of Representatives, once it reaches his desk. The Senate would need 67 votes to override a presidential veto.
The bill would allow the pipeline to be built immediately and bypass the traditional executive branch approval process.
TransCanada submitted its original permit application in 2008. The company agreed in 2011 to consider alternative routes for the pipeline after the Nebraska Legislature passed a law requiring it to build around a major aquifer in the state.
That state’s Supreme Court earlier this month upheld the state’s approval of the Keystone route through the state. The decision removes a roadblock frequently cited by President Obama as part of his hesitation to sign a bill approving the project.
The White House still rejected TransCanada’s initial bid in 2012, following controversy over a congressionally imposed deadline to act on the company’s request. But he left the door open for TransCanada to reapply and has expedited the new review of the project.
The U.S. Department of State concluded last year that the project is unlikely to increase the rate of oil sands drilling or heavy crude demand significantly, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has criticized the conclusions as not giving enough consideration to alternative pipeline routes and relying on outdated energy-economic modeling.