By the tight­est of mar­gins, the U.S. Sen­ate this evening defeat­ed a poor­ly con­ceived bill intend­ed to give oil giant Tran­sCana­da a green light to build its pro­posed Key­stone XL pipeline through Mon­tana, the Dako­tas, and Nebraska.

S.2280, prime spon­sored by Repub­li­can John Hoeven of North Dako­ta and pro­mot­ed by an increas­ing­ly des­per­ate Mary Lan­drieu of Louisiana since Elec­tion Night two weeks ago, need­ed six­ty votes to pass. It received fifty-nine.

Thir­ty-nine Democ­rats and two inde­pen­dents who cau­cus with Sen­ate Democ­rats (Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont) coura­geous­ly stood up to the dirty fos­sil fuels indus­try and vot­ed no on the bill, leav­ing Sen­ate Repub­li­cans and the oil wing of the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus one vote short of victory.

The oppo­si­tion to S.2280 was led by Bar­bara Box­er of Cal­i­for­nia, who thor­ough­ly debunked Repub­li­can claims about the pro­posed pipeline. (Repub­li­cans false­ly say the pipeline will cre­ate a lot of jobs… they’ve increas­ing­ly shied away from say­ing how many… and that it would not harm the environment.)

The Pacif­ic North­west­’s del­e­ga­tion split along ide­o­log­i­cal lines rather than par­ty lines. This was the roll call vote from our region:

Vot­ing Aye: Democ­rats John Walsh and Jon Tester (MT), Mark Begich (AK); Repub­li­cans Mark Crapo and Jim Risch (ID), Lisa Murkows­ki (AK)

Vot­ing Nay: Democ­rats Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR)

Aside from Begich, Walsh, and Tester, the Democ­rats who broke with the rest of their cau­cus to sup­port the bill were:

  • Mary Lan­drieu, Louisana
  • Michael Ben­net, Colorado
  • Tom Carp­er, Delaware
  • Bob Casey, Pennsylvania
  • Joe Don­nel­ly, Indiana
  • Kay Hagan, North Carolina
  • Hei­di Heitkamp, North Dakota
  • Joe Manchin, West Virginia
  • Claire McCaskill, Missouri
  • Mark Pry­or, Arkansas
  • Mark Warn­er, Virginia

Hagan and Pry­or will not be return­ing to the U.S. Sen­ate for the 114th Congress.

Lan­drieu had hoped that Angus King of Maine might be the six­ti­eth vote for the leg­is­la­tion, but he announced a few hours ago he would not sup­port the bill.

“Con­gress is not — nor should it be — in the busi­ness of leg­is­lat­ing the approval or dis­ap­proval of a con­struc­tion project,” King said in a press release.

“And while I am frus­trat­ed that the Pres­i­dent has refused to make a deci­sion on the future of the pipeline, I don’t believe that short-cir­cuit­ing the process to cir­cum­vent his Admin­is­tra­tion is in the best inter­est of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. I urge the Pres­i­dent to make a deci­sion soon, and, if he does­n’t, I look for­ward to work­ing with Con­gress to put a time­frame on this decision.”

Lan­drieu had pre­vi­ous­ly told reporters that she was con­fi­dent she had six­ty votes, say­ing “I feel com­fort­able.” Thank­ful­ly, it turned out she did­n’t real­ly have sixty.

S.2280 is appro­pri­ate­ly titled “a bill to approve the Key­stone XL pipeline.” That’s tru­ly all it is: a shame­ful, bla­tant attempt to do a big oil com­pa­ny’s bid­ding. The text of S.2280 con­sists of just a few pro­vi­sions. Here it is in its entirety:

Be it enact­ed by the Sen­ate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca in Con­gress assem­bled,


(a) In Gen­er­al- Tran­sCana­da Key­stone Pipeline, L.P. may con­struct, con­nect, oper­ate, and main­tain the pipeline and cross-bor­der facil­i­ties described in the appli­ca­tion filed on May 4, 2012, by Tran­sCana­da Cor­po­ra­tion to the Depart­ment of State (includ­ing any sub­se­quent revi­sion to the pipeline route with­in the State of Nebras­ka required or autho­rized by the State of Nebraska).

(b) Envi­ron­men­tal Impact State­ment- The Final Sup­ple­men­tal Envi­ron­men­tal Impact State­ment issued by the Sec­re­tary of State in Jan­u­ary 2014, regard­ing the pipeline referred to in sub­sec­tion (a), and the envi­ron­men­tal analy­sis, con­sul­ta­tion, and review described in that doc­u­ment (includ­ing appen­dices) shall be con­sid­ered to ful­ly satisfy –

(1) all require­ments of the Nation­al Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­i­cy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); and

(2) any oth­er pro­vi­sion of law that requires Fed­er­al agency con­sul­ta­tion or review (includ­ing the con­sul­ta­tion or review required under sec­tion 7(a) of the Endan­gered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1536(a))) with respect to the pipeline and facil­i­ties referred to in sub­sec­tion (a).

(c) Per­mits- Any Fed­er­al per­mit or autho­riza­tion issued before the date of enact­ment of this Act for the pipeline and cross-bor­der facil­i­ties referred to in sub­sec­tion (a) shall remain in effect.

(d) Fed­er­al Judi­cial Review- Any legal chal­lenge to a Fed­er­al agency action regard­ing the pipeline and cross-bor­der facil­i­ties described in sub­sec­tion (a), and the relat­ed facil­i­ties in the Unit­ed States, that are approved by this Act, and any per­mit, right-of-way, or oth­er action tak­en to con­struct or com­plete the project pur­suant to Fed­er­al law, shall only be sub­ject to judi­cial review on direct appeal to the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Circuit.

(e) Pri­vate Prop­er­ty Sav­ings Clause- Noth­ing in this Act alters any Fed­er­al, State, or local process or con­di­tion in effect on the date of enact­ment of this Act that is nec­es­sary to secure access from an own­er of pri­vate prop­er­ty to con­struct the pipeline and cross-bor­der facil­i­ties described in sub­sec­tion (a).

Aides to Barack Oba­ma had indi­cat­ed that he was pre­pared to veto S.2280 had it passed, but now it’s dead, so he won’t have to.

Repub­li­cans have promised to hold anoth­er vote on sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in ear­ly 2015 once they con­trol the U.S. Sen­ate major­i­ty. And although a cou­ple of sen­a­tors who vot­ed against Key­stone XL today are depart­ing the Sen­ate (Mark Udall, Tim John­son), Repub­li­cans can’t nec­es­sar­i­ly count on Michael Ben­net and Tom Carp­er to remain votes for advanc­ing the pipeline — which means the next S.2280 may still not reach Oba­ma’s desk in the 114th Congress.

The votes already exist to do Tran­sCanada’s bid­ding in the House; the House vot­ed out a bill on Fri­day sim­i­lar to S.2280 with Mary Lan­drieu’s oppo­nen­t’s name on it. The Rose­bud Sioux Tribe of South Dako­ta, whose trib­al lands Tran­sCana­da intends to run Key­stone XL through, respond­ed to the vote forcefully.

“We are out­raged at the lack of inter­gov­ern­men­tal coop­er­a­tion,” trib­al pres­i­dent Cyril Scott said in a state­ment. “We are a sov­er­eign nation and we are not being treat­ed as such. We will close our reser­va­tion bor­ders to Key­stone XL. Autho­riz­ing Key­stone XL is an act of war against our people.”

It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to a lob­by as pow­er­ful as the oil indus­try. We are grate­ful to Trib­al Pres­i­dent Scott, activist leader Jane Kleeb, and all the oth­er good peo­ple orga­niz­ing to ensure this destruc­tive, dirty pipeline project nev­er gets built. It makes zero sense for the Unit­ed States to assume the risks for a high pol­lut­ing ener­gy project that will send dirty fuel abroad for oth­er nations to burn and gen­er­ate prof­its for a for­eign oil conglomerate.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “Bill intended to force construction of Keystone XL pipeline fails to advance in U.S. Senate”

  1. Key­stone XL is total­ly unaf­ford­able. It would be a dis­as­ter. This project needs to die. 

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