The U.S. Senate on Wednesday took up a dozen amendments to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, passing only one concerning energy retrofitting for schools, two days after Democrats refused to end debate on the bill until all pending amendments had been voted on.
GOP leaders had initially planned to vote on 18 amendments, but put off at least six more until Thursday. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said on the Senate floor she hoped for final passage of the bill on Thursday after votes on the remaining amendments.
Eleven of the amendments failed to garner the required 60 votes needed for passage, according to Senate roll call records. One amendment passed by a voice vote would appoint the U.S. Department of Energy to streamline information about existing federal programs to finance school energy projects.
The Keystone bill would allow Congress to approve an $8 billion project that would link Canada’s tar sands crude oil to refineries 1,700 miles away on the Gulf Coast.
None of the other amendments, from both Republicans and Democrats, got more than 54 votes. Murkowski had proposed removing land from consideration as wilderness areas unless Congress acts on them within a year, coming on the heels of President Barack Obama’s plan to make part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a wilderness area and permanently ban drilling there.
Other failed amendments included campaign finance disclosure requirements for companies that stand to make more than $1 million from the tar sands, by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; removing the lesser prairie chicken from the threatened species list, by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; speeding up the approval process for liquefied natural gas exportation to World Trade Organization members, by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; and a nonbinding statement opposing presidential authority to unilaterally designate new national monuments, by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.
The failed cloture vote on Monday was part of the Democrats’ protest of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bid to end debate before all pending amendments had been decided.
Keystone XL is intended to carry tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast, with a southern 485-mile portion of the proposed span running from the crude market hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, to refineries near Port Arthur, Texas, having already been approved.
The House version of the bill approving the pipeline, bypassing the traditional executive branch approval process needed for projects that cross an international border, passed Jan. 9 with mainly Republican support.
The White House has continued to hold off on approval of the pipeline, despite fierce pressure from GOP lawmakers and business groups and a Nebraska Supreme Court decision earlier this month that upheld the state’s approval of the Keystone route through the state, a case that had been cited by Obama as a major stumbling block for the pipeline.
The administration has threatened to veto any legislation seeking to force its hand, and although lawmakers can override a veto with a two-thirds majority in each chamber, the party makeup of each chamber and related votes so far suggest any such effort would fall short.