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Breaking: Senate Passes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

Energy

This afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to approve the Keystone XL, a proposed 1,179-mile oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Every Republican Senator and a handful of Democrats voted in favor of building the pipeline with a final vote of 62 to 36 to pass S. 1.

“Senators who love Keystone just voted to approve eminent domain for private gain and to risk our water, all for one foreign corporation," said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska.

“Now that we have burned through three weeks of the Senate’s time, Senate Republicans have succeeded in passing their first piece of legislation: a gift for Big Oil that the President has already said he will veto," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). "I’m glad the President will veto this bill because the Keystone XL pipeline would be a disaster for our health and environment—enabling expanded development of one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet and exacerbating climate change. I hope we can now put this debate behind us and move on to more serious legislative efforts to address the major issues facing our country.”

Now the measure goes back to the House, which passed a similar bill earlier this month. House leaders will need to decide whether to pass the Senate bill as is, or make changes that would then need to be voted on by each chamber. President Obama has indicated that he will veto any Keystone XL bill that hits his desk.

“Putting the agenda of polluters ahead of the American public is bad policy and it’s bad politics," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "Remember when Senate Republicans thought moving forward with Keystone XL first would help them score political points? Now, they’ve managed to waste weeks of the American people’s time floundering around on a bill that the White House has indicated will be vetoed and they've gone on the record against broadly popular policies like protecting our drinking water, supporting wind jobs, and forcing the Koch Brothers to disclose their political spending."

Today's vote follows many votes on amendments to the Senate bill largely centered around how disastrous the tar sands oil industry is to the climate. An amendment introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. Whitehouse was voted on last week, which asked Senate members if "climate change is real and is not a hoax." The amendment passed by a 98-1 vote, with only Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker voting “no.” Another amendment sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), asked if "climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change." The amendment was blocked in a 50-49 vote, short of the 60 that was needed for approval.

Forty-nine Senators—all Republicans—voted against the statement that humans significantly contribute to climate change, cementing their legacies as climate deniers. The Senators that agreed that humans significantly contribute to climate change and still voted for the Keystone XL bill, include Democrat Michael Bennet (CO), Republicans Kelly Ayotte (NH), Mark Kirk (IL), John McCain (AZ) and Rand Paul (KY).

“Now that we have clarified which Senators believe in climate change caused by human activities, clearly a vote is needed on other key issues like whether the Earth is indeed flat or whether gravity truly exists," said Kyle Ash, Greenpeace legislative representative. "The entire U.S. Congress is now a punch line. While it is certainly sad that so many climate-denying Senators reject modern scientific knowledge, we’re happy that voters will have an easy-to-read list of those willing to destroy our future in the name of dirty fossil fuel money."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced an amendment last week asking if climate change is real; if climate change is caused by human activities; if climate change has already caused devastating problems in the U.S. and around the world; if only a brief window of opportunity exists before the U.S. and the entire planet suffer irreparable harm; and if it is imperative that the U.S. transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Sander's amendment lost the votes of every Republican, plus three Democrats and failed to pass.

“Senators who love Keystone just voted to approve eminent domain for private gain and to risk our water, all for one foreign corporation," said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska. "The good news for landowners in the Heartland is President Obama cares about our land and water and will veto this reckless bill. Farmers and ranchers need stability in their government so they can plan crops and development of their land. A full rejection of Keystone cannot come soon enough for landowners.”

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