Republican senators have failed to gather enough Democratic support to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The final tally for the bill was 59-41, just one vote short of the 60 votes needed for passage.
The House voted last Friday on the pipeline, passing the bill by a sweeping vote of 262-161. In the handful of days between then and now, pro-pipeline senators have been lobbying hard for it, and none harder than Democratic Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.
During a luncheon in the Capitol, Landrieu made a passionate case for the KXL to her fellow Democrats. “It was painful,” one Senate Democratic aide told Reuters. “Landrieu was kind of begging for votes, and some Democrats would say ‘no’ and then argue with her and with each other.”
The aide added that Landrieu had been “calling senators all week, texting them every other hour” for their votes.
TransCanada’s Keystone XL, a 1,700-mile expansion to the existing Keystone pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada to Cushing, Oklahoma, enjoys wide support in Louisiana. A big oil state, it will also be the site of Landrieu’s upcoming run-off election, after a too-close-to-call midterm result this month. As the Upshot’s Nick Cohn writes, the Keystone vote “was intended to highlight Ms. Landrieu’s ability to get things done for Louisiana, an energy producing state and a location near the end of the proposed Keystone pipeline.”
The KXL’s ability to bring jobs to America is one of its main selling points for proponents (though the claim appears to lack the requisite data to back it up), but according to NPR’s S.V. Dáte, none of those jobs would have gone to the Bayou State.
“I don’t think [KXL] goes through that state,” Sean Sweeney, a Cornell University researcher who co-authored a 2012 report that questioned the project, told NPR. “This is less about jobs numbers than it is about advancing the fossil fuel industry’s agenda.”
“What is everybody upset about?” Landrieu argued from the Senate floor today. “We already have 2.6 million miles of pipe in America.”
At a planning meeting for a KXL protest on Tuesday, Nebraska farmer Art Tanderup said, “If we allow this pipeline to go through, we are moving backwards on clean energy.”
Planet Experts’ Pierce Nahigyan interviewed Tanderup, whose property sits in the path of the proposed pipeline, earlier this month. In the interview, Tanderup spoke about the danger the pipeline posed to his and other farmers’ livelihoods. Transporting extra-heavy oil sands, any leak would be sure to seep down into Nebraska’s unconfined aquifer, upon which much of the Midwest depends on for its drinking water and irrigation.
“My irrigation well’s 120 feet deep,” said Tanderup. “So, any type of leak in that pipeline, whether it be a crack or seep or a full-blown break, that thing is gonna leak. The chemicals and the tar sands will work down through the soil into that water and contaminate the Ogallala aquifer.”
The Independent Senator from Maine, Angus King, opposed Tuesday’s vote on principle. “Congress is not – nor should it be – in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Though the KXL did not pass today, Republicans will likely try again when they take control of the Senate in January. North Dakota Senator John Hoeven has previously stated that it will be one of the first items on the new majority’s agenda in 2015.
Various outlets report that President Obama would likely veto any pro-KXL legislation, though the President has yet to make a definitive statement on the subject.