Colorado’s Senate delegation split on Keystone XL pipeline as bill fails |

Colorado’s Senate delegation split on Keystone XL pipeline as bill fails

Bridgett Weaver

The jobs

The U.S. State Department in January said an average of 42,100 jobs a year would be created during construction of the pipeline, with wages totaling $2 billion.

However, once the pipeline became operational, it would only require an estimated 50 employees — 35 permanent workers and 15 temporary contractors, according to the State Department.

Source: Tribune News Service

The U.S. Senate shot down an attempt to push legislation in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, with Colorado senators splitting their votes on the controversial bill. Sen. Mark Udall voted in opposition and Sen. Michael Bennet supported it.

The bill only received 59 of the necessary 60 it needed to pass in the Senate. Republicans have promised to put it back on the floor in January, when the newly elected Republican majority takes their seats.

All 45 Senate Republicans supported the legislation to build the Canada-to-Texas pipeline. Only 14 of 55 Democrats and allied independents joined them, a total that didn’t budge despite an appeal by Louisiana Democrat Sen. Mary L. Landrieu behind closed doors a few hours before the vote. Landrieu faces a runoff election in December.

The vote was one of the last acts of this Senate controlled by the Democrats. It is expected to complete its work by mid-December.

Republicans said a pipeline replay with the potential to spark a veto confrontation with Obama would be coming — and soon.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, said within minutes of the vote, “I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the new year.”

Rep. Cory Gardner, who will take Udall’s seat in the Senate in January, voted with the House majority last week to approve the Keystone pipeline bill.

“Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is long overdue,” Gardner said in an email. “I will continue to fight for pro-growth policies that will jump start our economy, and move us closer to energy independence.”

The proposed pipeline would run 1,179 miles from the Canadian tar sands to Gulf coast refineries. It has been at the center of a struggle since Calgary-based TransCanada proposed it in 2008. The most recent delay was caused by a lawsuit filed in Nebraska over its proposed route.

The delays have caused friction between the U.S. and Canada, which is interested in exporting its growing oil sands production.

While proponents of the pipeline say it would create U.S. jobs and ease dependence on Middle Eastern oil, opponents say the pipeline would be environmentally harmful, and they fear it would only benefit the Canadian company building it.

Micah Parkin, executive director at 350 Colorado, said the group is excited about the failed pipeline vote, but weary of the future.

“We’re certainly very thrilled that (the bill) did fail but it’s unfortunately tainted with the sour taste of our own Senator Bennet voting the wrong way,” she said.

Parkin said some younger opponents of the bill who are based in D.C. were arrested Tuesday for staging a sit-in at Bennet’s D.C. office.

“It’s a despicable thing when our youths have to be arrested for protecting their futures, which senators who understand what’s at stake with the climate crisis should be doing for them,” she said.

Bennet’s spokeswoman Erin McCann said he supported the bill but would prefer that Congress* should focus on developing a broad and comprehensive energy strategy to reduce carbon pollution and support renewable energy.

“(Bennet) believes we should take aggressive action to curb climate change and support the President Obama’s Climate Action Plan,” McCann said.

Parkin said she still has faith in the president’s veto, though, and she thinks when the time comes he will not let it pass.

Both senators in several of Colorado’s neighboring states, including Kansas and Wyoming, are members of the Republican party and voted in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

“This vote to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline should have happened years ago, and while I am disappointed it failed by a single vote in the Democrat-led Senate, it is only a matter of time before it is passed in the next Congress by the new Republican majority and sent to President Obama’s desk,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., in a press release. “At that time, the President will finally be forced to decide whether increases in energy security and American jobs trump special interest politics.”

His colleague in the Senate, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., echoed the sentiment that though the pipeline may have been voted down now, it won’t be long before a Republican-led Congress can approve it. In a press release, Roberts expressed disappointment in Senate Democrats.

“On Election Day, Americans voted overwhelmingly to end the gridlock in Washington. Unfortunately, it appears Senate Democrats didn’t get the message,” Roberts said. “Harry Reid and his fellow liberal obstructionists in the Senate put ideology above 42,000 American jobs. It is clear Senate Democrats care more about the will of liberal environmental lobby than the will of the American people.”

In South Dakota, the senators were split in votes. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., voted no on the pipeline, while his Republican colleague, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., voted in favor of it.

“The Senate did the right thing in upholding the established process that is in place to determine whether the construction of the Keystone pipeline is in the national interest,” Johnson said. “While a final decision should not be open ended, there remaines considerable uncertainty about the project at the state and federal level, especially with the Nebraska District Court’s decision to invalidate the pipeline route through that state.”

In Nebraska, the controversy over the Keystone XL has been close to home, According to a Nov. 19 article in the Omaha World-Herald, state legislature passed a law giving Gov. Dave Heineman the authority to approve the pipeline’s route through Nebraska, instead of just the Nebraska Public Service Commision. However, after legal action from three area landowners challenged the constitutionality of the law and a district judge ruled it unconsitutional, it was heard by the Nebraska Supreme Court in September. A ruling could be issued in the next several weeks. If the Supreme Court upholds the last decision, TransCanada will have to apply for the route with the Nebraska Public Service Commission. Omaha World-Herald reported that TransCanada already has their application prepared.

Bold Nebraska, an organization that campaigns for “more progressive, independent and moderate voices” in Nebraska’s politics, put out a press release with a collection of statements from groups opposed to the pipeline, applauding the Senate’s vote.

“Today’s defeat of Keystone XL should send a strong signal to the incoming GOP-led Congress that farmers and ranchers will never back down to their oil soaked intentions. We call on Pres. Obama to stand up and reject Keystone XL now,” said Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska.

Since the Keystone Pipeline already exists, connecting Hardisty, Canada to Springfield, Ill., with extensions connecting Steele City, Neb., Cushing, Okla., Nederland, Texas and a project under development to connect to Houston, Texas, it stands to reason that this leg of the pipeline would pose a different or additional concern than the initial drilling in Canada. The Keystone XL portion of the pipeline would cross the Ogallala Aquifer.

The aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is the largest in the country, according to the Texas Water Development Board. It stretches through most of Nebraska and parts of South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas and takes up an area of 174,050 square miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In January. the U.S. State Department released a statement on the potential environmental effects of the pipeline. The report said, “Modeling indicates that aquifer characteristics would inhibit the spread of released oil, and impacts from a release on water quality would be limited.”

Each of the Nebraskan senators, both Republicans, voted yes on the pipeline.

“This debate is not over and I look forward to a robust discussion on this project early next year — free from the political sideshow we’ve seen the past few days (before the senate vote),” said Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

*In the original report, McCann was thought to be talking to Bennet’s constituents about developing an energy strategy, but she meant that Bennet was petitioning Congress to focus on reducing carbon pollution instead of focusing on the politics that have surrounded the Keystone XL project.

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