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56 Senators Try to Force Keystone XL Pipeline Past President Obama and the Public

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56 Senators Try to Force Keystone XL Pipeline Past President Obama and the Public

A group of U.S. senators says it has enough votes to not only approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, but push it past President Barack Obama.

The group consists of all 45 Republican senators and 11 Democrats. They introduced legislation for the pipeline on Thursday.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., appeared on Fox News to announce that he believed pipeline proponents had enough Senate votes to give TransCanada the green light and that a vote would happen soon. Despite charges of unfair land contracts and research indicating that the pipeline would significant exacerbate our climate, Manchin says the issue is ensuring the country's energy security.

A Senate vote on Keystone XL is expected this week. Photo credit: League of Women Voters of California/Flickr Creative Commons

The senator argued that the pipeline was a more environmentally friendly means of transporting oil to refineries. There's no doubt that a measure would pass in the Republican House of Representatives. Last year, a non-binding resolution to support the pipeline passed by a 62-37 count in the Senate.

Environmental groups weren't pleased with the news, but are confident that the Administration will say no to dirty tar sands oil when all is said and done.

"We see this as a purely political move," Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, said in a call with reporters, according to the Huffington Post. "We think the president will be true to his word that he wants to see the process play out." 

Kleeb also appeared via phone on MSNBC's The Ed Show. The issue is discussed, beginning at the 1:53-mark of the below video, with Kleeb's interview following.

 

This week would likely be the last time senators debate the pipeline before November elections. The Administration could veto such a bill, but it would take 67 votes to override one. Does Manchin believe supporters can find a few more votes?

"I would hope so," he said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney denounced the potential for Congressional force to push the pipeline through the approval process. 

"Our position hasn’t changed, which is that this has to be run by the book," Carney said. "What we’ve seen in the past when Congress has passed legislation, it has actually slowed the process down. So we believe that this has to be run by the book, outside of politics, and that’s the way it’s being run."

With just four votes needed to reach a "filibuster-proof" majority of 60 votes, The Hill listed Delaware Sen. Chris Coons as one of the Democrats the pipeline supporters would try to convert. His spokesman said that's not going to happen.

"Sen. Coons believes the law makes clear that it's up to the administration to make permitting decisions like this one,"Coons spokesman Ian Koski told the site. "He's frustrated with how long it's taking for a decision to be made, but doesn't think it's Congress' role to be issuing construction permits."

In response, 350.org is encouraging people to call their senators' offices to encourage them not to vote for the pipeline.

"This pipeline would be a climate disaster, and if the senator is serious about fighting climate change, then they should vote ‘no' on any bill that approves Keystone XL," the organization's script reads.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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