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In Bipartisan Display, Senate Adds One Amendment to Keystone XL Bill, Will Consider Six More

Hours before President Obama was to give his State of the Union address, Republicans in the U.S. Senate showed some willingness to work with Democrats on energy issues, after giving overwhelming support to a bipartisan amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill and agreeing to discuss six more amendments -- three from each party.

But two additional amendments introduced by Democrats -- to ban the export of oil transported through the pipeline, and requiring domestic material to build it -- were tabled.

The bill (S-1) would authorize TransCanada Corp. to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast and transport 830,000 b/d to U.S. refineries, including 100,000 b/d from the Bakken Shale (see Shale Daily, May 7, 2012).

The Senate agreed, by a 94-5 vote, to an amendment calling for energy efficiency measures in federal and other buildings, among other things (see Shale Daily, Jan. 8). The amendment was submitted by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on behalf of his colleague Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

"This is a very short version [of the bill] that passed the House [of Representatives] last year overwhelmingly," Shaheen said before the vote. "It doesn't pick favorites in terms of fuel sources. It is good for every region of the country. This is something that we ought to all be able to get behind, and I'm really pleased and hope we can get a very strong vote out of here."

Portman added that the amendment was a "no-brainer."

"It's three relatively small provisions, one of which is very timely with regard to water heaters. It's already passed the House so it shouldn't be controversial there, either. We're hopeful to be able bring the larger legislation to the floor in the future, but this is a good down payment."

An amendment introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) to ban the export of crude oil and bitumen transported through Keystone XL was tabled by a 57-42 vote. The Markey amendment would have given the president the authority to issue a waiver on the export ban, with certain caveats.

"We should not be allowing the Canadians to use the United States as a straw, to be able to then go down to the Gulf of Mexico and send that oil out of our country," Markey said before the vote. "We export young men and women over to the Middle East in order to protect oil coming from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This is a chance to keep oil in America so that we don't have to export it."

An amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), requiring the use of iron, steel and manufactured goods produced in the United States for building the pipeline, was also tabled, 53-46.

Immediately following the vote on the Portman-Shaheen amendment, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said both Republicans and Democrats "have agreed to a process" in bringing additional amendments to the floor for consideration.

"Today is a somewhat truncated day here on the Senate floor because of the State of the Union, but it's our hope that we will be able to get three amendments pending on our side, [and] three amendments pending on the Democrats' side," Murkowski said.

The six amendments are:

  • No. 18, by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) -- to place a limit on designating new Federally Protected Land;
  • Nos. 29 and 58, by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), respectively -- on climate change;
  • No. 33, by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) -- changing language of the Endangered Species Act;
  • No. 41, by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) -- on setting standards for coal refuse power plants; and
  • No. 69, by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) -- on the regulation of petroleum coke as a hazardous waste.

Last week, the Senate voted to invoke cloture and begin the debate for its version of a Keystone XL bill (see Shale Daily, Jan. 13). Meanwhile, the House has already given overwhelming support to its version of the bill authorizing the pipeline, despite a veto threat by President Obama (see Shale Daily, Jan. 9; Jan. 6).

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