One Vote Shy: Another Chapter in the Keystone XL Saga

After more than a year of political back-and-forth and gridlock, a vote was held on the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Pipeline (RGB)

By BRYCE MARTIN | ND Group Editor |

After more than a year of political back-and-forth and gridlock, a vote was held on the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

While a bill to begin construction on the pipeline was voted down Tuesday in the Senate by only one vote, Senate Republicans said they are certain the bill will pass when the newly Republican-controlled Senate begins a new session at the top of the year.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week in favor of the same bill to approve the project and sent that bill, S.B. 2280, to the U.S. Senate for its consideration. Shy of one vote, the bill failed the Senate hurdle.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is about energy, jobs, helping to grow our economy and increasing national security by increasing energy security. We do not want to depend on the Middle East for oil when we can produce it at home, along with our closest ally Canada,” said Sen. John Hoeven, who co-authored S.B. 2880. “But to have a sound energy plan, we need the infrastructure to move that energy to market, safely and efficiently.”

Going into Tuesday’s vote, Hoeven said he was hopeful that the Senate would amass the 60 votes needed to pass the bill. After it was defeated, Hoeven said he would bring the bill back when the new Congress convenes in January. Hoeven said at that time there would be enough votes.

Even if passed by the Senate, President Barack Obama said he would veto the bill.

“At that time, I will reintroduce the bill, possibly as part of a broader energy package or appropriations bill that the president will not want to veto,” Hoeven said in a statement after the Tuesday vote.

With a total capacity of 830,000 barrels per day, the pipeline would accept 100,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude oil and provide approximately 40,000 jobs. The project has now waited 2,247 days, or six year, for its required presidential permit. The legislation would authorize the construction, connection, operation and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline, deeming Secretary of State John Kerry’s final supplemental environmental impact statement, to be released this month, was sufficient to satisfy requirements and reviews.

The fate of the controversial pipeline was a political decision that was already postponed for years.

Earlier this year, the federal government showed no definite plans to wrap up its comment period — from federal agencies regarding the project — as they postponed the decision indefinitely.

Hoeven said earlier this year that the government would postpone a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project until after the November election.

Those elections since passed and several legislators called for Congress to finally hold a vote.

“President Obama’s Keystone XL strategy is clearly defeat through delay. He claims adherence to process, but whenever he runs out of process, he finds more process,” Hoeven said earlier this year.

Because of the delay, be it “tactical politics” as suggested by Hoeven, or a legitimate delay — the U.S. State Department explained the delay as “uncertainty created by the ongoing litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court”— it has put the small Bowman County city of Gascoyne on the map.

Since 2011, pipes to be used for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline have been stockpiled along Highway 12 east of Gascoyne.

Over the seasons, they lie unused, gathering snow in the winter and dust in the summer. The vast quantities of mainly bluish-green pipes often pique the curiosity of passersby. The pipes stand hoping one day to be used to create one of the most studied transcontinental pipelines in history.

The Calgary, Alberta-based oil giant TransCanada Corp. submitted its initial application for approval of the pipeline over five years ago. It was to run from Hardisty, Alberta to an existing pipeline near Steele City, Neb.

The Keystone Pipeline would reduce transport of oil by railway, which caused massive delays for farmers during this year’s harvest and is considered dangerous after the explosion of an oil car earlier this year near Casselton and some subsequent derailments.

“The American people support the Keystone XL pipeline by a margin of three to one and the U.S. Congress is on record supporting the project and declaring it in the national interest,” Hoeven said.

Beginning April 26, thousands of protestors opposing the $5.4 billion project began a six-day Reject and Protect event in Washington, D.C. Launched mostly by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, the event urged Obama to shelve the project.

Many environmentalists, politicians and citizens from around the country have raised concerns about the potential negative impacts of the Keystone XL project, which is the fourth phase of the existing Keystone Pipeline that currently exists.

They say its negative points outweigh its possible positive economic impacts.

Opponents of the project explained the main issue with the project is the risk of oil spills along the line, which would potentially contaminate sensitive land.

When completed, the Keystone XL portion of the line would extend down from Canada, navigate to the southeast directly through Baker, Mont. and join the existing Keystone pipeline in Nebraska. It would narrowly pass over the southwestern corner of Bowman County.

“… One would think President Obama would want the jobs and energy security the Keystone XL Pipeline will bring,” Rep. Kevin Cramer said in a statement earlier this year. “The time for talking is over. It is time for leaders to lead.”

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