(Washington, DC 3/22) Today the United States Senate passed the Hoeven amendment 62 to 37, a non-binding amendment that expresses support for building the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
That’s the U.S. Senate, the chamber of Congress with a Democratic majority.
The planned Keystone XL pipeline would bring tarsands oil from its source in Canada to refineries in Texas.
Tarsands oil represents a whole new source of fossil fuel at a time when we need to be moving in the opposite direction, burning less fossil fuel and desisting from pumping planet-warming carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Before the tasands effort, it was just starting to look like oil supplies were dwindling and nature, by removing carbon sources, would force on us the much-needed changes we could not force on ourselves.
But today’s Senate action could have been much worse. The action is a non-binding amendment, toothless perhaps because so many prevailed on their senators to vote against the thing Big Oil had asked for: fast-track, Congressional approval of the pipeline. Fast track approval would override the process that’s already in place: an environmental impact statement (currently being overseen by the Department of State) to be followed by a national interest determination by the Department of State, and then permit issuance or denial.
Payback to their donors maybe? As Oil Change International reports, “the ten original co-sponsors of the Hoeven amendment received an average of $807,517 from the fossil fuel industry, 254% more than the average non-sponsoring senator, for a total of $8 million dollars from the industry.” Further, “those voting for the amendment received $499,648 from fossil fuel interests, on average, and nearly $31 million in total over their careers. Meanwhile, those voting against the amendment received $143,372 on average.”
The Department of State issued a draft supplemental environmental impact statement earlier this month. Astonishingly, that study finds that the pipeline won’t contribute to climate change because if it isn’t built the fossil fuel companies will find some other way to transport the tarsands oil. As Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones said in a teleconference on March 1, the day the draft was issued, “we find in this draft that the approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including this proposed project, really remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of development of the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil in the U.S.”
It’s a draft. It’s open to public comment until April 22. To tell State what you think, send them a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
Edit, March 25: Looks like that draft supplemental environmental impact statement was done by folks with a conflict of interest, and State tried to cover it up. Like most EIS’s, this study was contracted out. The contractor, ERM, provided conflict of interest info to State, which State posted on their website — in redacted form. The missing information had to do with the work history of the #2 person on the project — he had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada and had consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project. This from Mother Jones.
Government work that gets contracted out is supposed to be reviewed closely by government workers, but that rarely happens.
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