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Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Falls Short by One Vote in Senate

The controversial TransCanada Corp. Keystone XL Pipeline project failed passage in the U.S. Senate late Tuesday, gaining a 59-41 favorable vote, but falling one vote short of a required 60 ayes. Earlier, the House had passed its version of the bill giving the green light to the project, which has been stalled by the Obama administration for several years.

Blasting Senate Democratic Party members who voted against the measure, Senate Majority Leader-to-be Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed to take up the measure again when the 114th Congress convenes in January with a strong Republican majority in both houses. All 45 Republicans voted for approval, along with 14 Democrats.

"Tonight, Senate Democrats once again stood in the way of a shovel-ready jobs project that would help thousands of Americans find work -- a remarkable stance after an election in which the American people sent a clear message to Congress to approve serious policies like the Keystone XL Pipeline and get the Senate working again," McConnell said.

"Unfortunately, many Senate Democrats failed to hear that message. But once the 114th Congress convenes, the Senate will act again on this important legislation, and I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the new year."

Before the Senate vote but after House approval, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling defended the economic benefits of his $7 billion, 1,700-mile project from Alberta, Canada to the refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, the southern half of which from Cushing, OK, to the Gulf is built and operating. The Senate vote was focused on a proposed 1,179-mile northern leg from Alberta.

"The [project's] value is as strong today as when we first filed for a cross-border permit in 2008," Girling said, citing the U.S. State Department environmental review that concluded Keystone XL would create 42,000 direct and indirect jobs and $3.4 billion in U.S. gross domestic product.

American Petroleum Institute (API) CEO Jack Gerard said the Senate vote shows that a few stood in the way of the largest bipartisan jobs and energy security bill, ignoring the will of the American people on election day.

“Instead of seizing a rare bipartisan opportunity to help American workers and strengthen our energy security, a few Senators returned to politics as usual. This is not what the electorate voted for two weeks ago, and it doesn't bode well for future bipartisanship," Gerard said.

“Keystone XL is not going away, the president will have to deal with it, if not now then next year. We will work with the new Congress to focus on getting this important jobs project approved. We will not give up until the pipeline is built.”

Like many other Keystone supporters, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), expressed disappointment but said this was not the end of the process. As the ranking Republican and soon-to-be chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski said "The Keystone XL pipeline will be a top priority next year for the new majority. [It] is not going away; the president will have to deal with it.”

Since its first tries for a presidential cross-border permit going back six years, the game the Keystone project has faced has involved a divided Congress in which the Republican-majority House passed bills approving Keystone. The Senate energy committee on a bipartisan basis voted to approve the project only to have the Democratic leadership block consideration on the Senate floor (see Shale Daily, June 18).

Anti-Keystone group Bold Nebraska issued a reaction predicting that another bill aimed at fast-tracking the oil pipeline is expected when the next Congress convenes in January, "but we know that KXL fails the president’s climate test and he has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline right now."

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