Win McNamee, Getty Images
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., speaks after the Senate voted on the Keystone XL Pipeline bill.

US Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline by Narrowest of Margins

Nov. 19, 2014
Republicans vowed to approve the Keystone XL pipeline bill early in 2015 when the new Congress convenes with them in control of the next Senate.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate rejected by a single vote Tuesday a bill that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring crude oil to Gulf coast refineries from Canada's controversial tar sands.

Rejection of the $5.3 billion project came by the narrowest of margins and Republicans immediately vowed to approve the bill early in 2015 when the new Congress convenes with them in control of the next Senate.

Tuesday's vote relieves President Barack Obama -- at least for now -- of the potential headache of vetoing the measure, as he recently has signaled several times over the past week that he might do.

Supporters of the long-delayed project, a top Republican energy priority that has become a political football, came up one vote short of the 60 needed for approval in the 100-member chamber.

Many of the 45 Republicans who supported the bill, as well as some of the 14 Democrats who voted with them, described Keystone XL as a "no-brainer" that would generate thousands of jobs and improve American energy independence.

The pipeline easily passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives last week, as it has several times before.

The 59-41 Senate vote, the most contentious action in the chamber since Republicans roared to victory in the midterm elections earlier this month, came down to the wire, with supporters scrambling in vain for a final Democrat to sign on.

"Congress is not -- nor should it be -- in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project," independent Senator Angus King said of the pipeline that would transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta province to U.S. refineries.

Keystone's progress is closely monitored in Canada, where government officials and TransCanada have said the project would provide an economic boon.

The U.S. State Department, which has authority over Keystone because of its international link, released a review in January finding that carbon emissions would not be significant.

Obama has said he would only approve Keystone if it was shown to have minimal carbon emissions impact.

Critics argue that tar sand bitumen is some of the world's dirtiest oil.

But Republicans tout Keystone's generation of 40,000 temporary construction jobs. The State Department says only 35 permanent jobs will result.

Republicans gained at least seven Senate seats in their midterm romp, and when the new Congress convenes with McConnell at the helm in the Senate, they should have votes to pass Keystone.

The vote marked disaster for Keystone's main Democratic backer, Senator Mary Landrieu, the Senate Energy Committee chair who is facing a tough Dec. 6 runoff in Louisiana -- where she wants to be seen as breaking Washington gridlock.

Her Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, introduced the parallel legislation that passed in the House.

The Republican National Committee rushed to gain some political mileage from the bill's failure, dubbing Landrieu "the energy chairman who still can't deliver Keystone."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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