Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline Amendment
It was a close vote, but the zombie pipeline has been killed once again. Well partly, anyway.
In a 56-42 vote on Thursday, the Senate failed to pass an amendment onto a transportation bill that would have given the complete Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline project the OK.
Regardless of the Senate’s vote, TransCanada, the company behind the project, recently announced its construction plans for the lower half of the pipeline—a 485-mile piece stretching from Cushing, Okla. to gulf-coast refineries in Texas.
That limb of the zombie is still writhing even as the Senate took an axe to its larger body but, as zombies do, the pipeline may just lay there bleeding awhile before rising again.
And that’s a likely possibility as TransCanada plans to reapply for a cross-border permit. The White House has welcomed the southern portion of the pipeline, which doesn’t need presidential approval as it doesn’t cross an international border.
President Obama made personal calls to some senators on Thursday, urging them to vote against the measure; 11 Democrats joined Republicans in support of the pipeline amendment.
Still, the vote was one more victory on a campaign that’s been hard fought as Congress’ pockets are lined with the dirtiest, slickest, and oiliest of dollars.
In fact, the Big Oil lobby was so sure that the Senate would approve the Keystone XL that the American Petroleum Institute sent out a press release minutes after the vote praising senators for approving the amendment. They soon corrected their mistake.
It makes sense that they would jump the gun on the pipeline even as the Senate used the same weapon to shoot the project down. Major oil companies have meted out more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions and $65.7 million on lobbying, returning more than $30 worth of tax breaks for every dollar they invested—a 3,000 percent return on their lobbying efforts, and they’re still sitting on tens of millions in cash reserves.
Thursday’s victory is the result of awe-inspiring waves of grassroots action, from civil disobedience arrests to thousands surrounding the White House to mass message blitzes—and these actions are only escalating alongside the efforts of the Big Oil lobby.
Five American Indian activists were arrested Monday as they attempted to block two tar sands pipeline trucks from entering the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The blockade lasted about six hours.
Deborah White Plume and a small group of Lakota Indians asked why the trucks were driving through their reservation lands, and the trucks told them that they had “corporate rights that supersede any other laws.”
On Thursday, 350.org founder and prominent environmental activist Bill McKibben paid homage to Plume and to a host of women leaders in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline as the vote approached on International Women’s Day.
And women like Plume will continue to fight this fight, as I undoubtedly will when the pipeline begins to be constructed in Texas—and I’m certainly taking my cues from her.
Candice Bernd is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @CandiceBernd.