Yesterday the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would approve construction on the Keystone XL pipeline, an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf that environmental activists say could have disastrous consequences.
The House voted 252 to 161 to approve the bill last week; Obama said he would veto the bill if it came to his desk, but with its supporters (14 Democrats and all 45 Republicans) just one vote short of the 60 votes needed to forestall the Democrats' filibuster last night, the Keystone construction proposal is defeated––for now.
The Progressive has covered this ongoing controversy at length, from whistleblower Evan Vokes's decision to come forward againts TransCanada, the architects of the project, to warn the public against Republican promises that the pipeline would create jobs and help the economy, to organized actions around the country urging President Obama not to support the pipeline.
The fight is far from over.
"Environmentalists need to acknolwedge that there are other pipelines bringing tar sands to the gulf already," explains Steve Horn, an occasional Progressive contributor and research fellow with the climate change information site DeSmog Blog. The southern leg of the Keystone pipeline itself, a project on which former president George W. Bush signed off in 2008, was approved by President Obama in 2012; this bill concerned the northern leg, which was planned to run from Alberta to Oklahoma.
Horn adds, "TransCanada still really wants this to be built; they've paid a lot of money to lobbyists and PR professionals because they still want the northern leg of that pipeline. This was an important vote, yesterday, but there's a lot to be done."
NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline a "a fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" in large part for its use of energy-intensive tar sands. "Just the process of mining them is energy intensive," Horn explains.
Keystone is nowhere near the only oil pipeline that poses a threat to the environment, Horn says, and he hopes the attention drawn to this pipeline will raise awareness of others. "The Enbridge pipeline was approved by Obama in 2009 and is looking for an expansion that would double its capacity," he notes.
A joint lawsuit was filed last week against the Enbridge system, by the Sierra Club and White Earth Nation, seeking an injunction to stop the expansion of the Alberta to Minnesota pipeline. "I've been calling it a Keystone XL clone," Horn says of the Gulf Access System, which encompasses the Alberta Clipper, Flanagan South, and Seaway Twin pipelines owned by Enbridge.
"I hope this debate opens up a wider debate over tar sands extraction and tar sands pipelines."