Senate Vote Favors Big Oil But Does Not Approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

A symbolic and non-binding vote by the Senate in support the approval and construction of the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline favors Big Oil over the American people.  The Senate approved a non-binding amendment introduced by Senator Hoeven that supports but does not approve the Keystone XL pipeline, nor does it direct the president to approve it.

Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued this statement on the measure:

 “The Senators supporting this amendment made the wrong choice by bowing to Big Oil. Their symbolic vote doesn’t change the law or the truth about this dangerous project.  

“The President will still make the ultimate decision about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline after the current public process is completed evaluating whether it’s in the national interest. And it’s time to stop grandstanding and to get the facts: the tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward to the American people.

“It's still true that the Keystone XL project would pipe some of the world's dirtiest oil through the heartland for export through the Gulf of Mexico. It’s still true Midwestern oil prices will go up. It's still true that it would threaten American homes, farms and ranches with spills, and worsen climate change by enabling tar sands development. These facts demonstrate that the Keystone pipeline is not in the national interest and should be denied.”

This Senate vote will not the change the environmental review process led by the State Department.  This review is critical to determine the impact of the pipeline as well as whether the pipeline is in the national interest.  This process is not complete - the public comment period hasn’t even ended - and any effort to push approval of the pipeline before that process is finished is irresponsible and counter to the interests of the American public.

All Risk

There is plenty of evidence the pipeline would have tremendous risks to climate and water. The draft State Department review confirmed that tar sands are up to 19 percent more greenhouse gas intensive than conventional oil. But the draft falsely concluded that Keystone XL will not lead to an expansion of tar sands development. In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise.  There is plenty of evidence that the delay so far has in fact slowed development and cooled investor confidence.  Approval would be a shot in the arm to the tar sands industry and would carry so much tar sands oil into the U.S. and other countries that the climate impacts would be the equivalent of putting 6-9 million new cars on the road. Claims that rail will proceed in lieu of Keystone XL have no basis in reality.

The draft review also acknowledged the difficulties in cleaning up a tar sands spill. Three years after the tar sands spill in Michigan – where nearly 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River are still contaminated by tar sands after nearly a billion dollars in cleanup activities – the significant risks posed by tar sands spills are clear. But despite the fact that Keystone XL could spill almost 8 times what was spilled into the Kalamazoo, the draft State Department found the project would not have a significant impact.

No Reward

This is not a pipeline for US economic or energy security, but a project to spur tar sands expansion, raise oil prices and help the international oil industry. An expedited the decision will close out landowners and communities along the pipeline’s path.

Two powerful Huffington Post blogs make it clear Keystone XL that is not in America's best interest.  Actor and director Robert Redford said the Senate has an obligation to share the truth about this pipeline with their constituents including:

1) It's GREAT for Big Oil. BAD for America. And REALLY BAD for climate change, producing three times more global warming pollution than conventional crude production, and using vast amounts of energy and water, causing significant pollution to both air and water.

2) Canadian citizens are against tar sands pipelines too, fighting the Gateway Pipeline to their west coast -- and through British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest -- and the Trailbreaker pipeline to carry tar sands to east to Maine.

Michael Northrup with the Rockefellers Brothers Fund said there are over a dozen reasons why the pipeline is in Big Oil’s interest and not Americas including:

...if we wait too much longer, Americans will realize this has nothing to do with U.S. energy security. In reality, only a small portion will be used in the United States. Oil companies can get a higher price for these fuels in Asia.

The draft review confirmed what industry has been saying that the pipeline’s main purpose is to serve as an export pipeline to fuel international markets rather than U.S. consumers.

The draft review also showed Keystone XL is not a job creator and found it will create only 35 permanent jobs and 3,900 construction jobs – a fraction of the exaggerated job claims made by proponents of the tar sands pipeline.

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline threatens American homes, farms, and ranches with tar sands oil spills.  And it threatens all of us by driving the expansion of the giant tar sands reserve and worsening climate change. It would raise oil prices. It would provide few jobs and derail continued growth in clean energy jobs. And it would funnel money to foreign oil corporations. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward and has no place on the budget resolution.

About the Authors

Danielle Droitsch

Senior Policy Analyst, Canada Project

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