WASHINGTON, DC, November 18, 2014 (ENS) – A measure to force approval of the Keystone tar sands pipeline was defeated in the U.S. Senate today by a vote of 59-41. Sixty votes were needed for passage of the bill.

All the Republican Senators and 11 Democrats voted for the bill. A similar measure sailed through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives last week.

When the new Congress convenes in January, with Republicans in control of both houses, the issue is certain to again be put up for a vote.

The bill, S. 2280, was an attempt to get around President Barack Obama’s sole authority to issue a Presidential Permit for the TransCanada pipeline to transport heavy crude oil from the Alberta tar sands across the Canada-U.S. border.

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President Barack Obama answers questions at a press conference in Brisbane, Australia, November 16, 2014 (Photo courtesy G20 Australia 2014)

President Obama has said many times, most recently during a news conference at the G20 meeting in Australian on the weekend, that the State Department is still reviewing the matter, and that he will make no decision until the ongoing court proceeding in Nebraska over the route of the pipeline across that state is decided.

“With respect to Keystone, I’ve said consistently, and I think I repeated in Burma, but I guess I’ve got to answer it once more, we’re going to let the process play itself out. And the determination will be made in the first instance by the Secretary of State,” said Obama on Sunday in Brisbane.

“But I won’t hide my opinion about this, which is that one major determinant of whether we should approve a pipeline shipping Canadian oil to world markets, not to the United States, is does it contribute to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change,” he said.

In Burma on Friday, President Obama told reporters at a news conference, “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

But Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who is facing an election run-off December 6, pushed for the Senate vote in hopes that it would improve her chances. Landrieu is a longtime advocate for green-lighting the pipeline.

In June she maintained that it would be good for the American oil supply, saying, “The Keystone XL pipeline is in our national interest. The current unrest in Iraq underscores the need to move away from relying on energy sources in unstable parts of the world. … The construction of the Keystone pipeline will send a message to other countries that the United States intends to rely on energy from our allies like Canada.”

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect with newly built TransCanada pipelines to Gulf Coast refineries.

It would run through Baker, Montana, where American-produced light crude oil from the Williston Basin’s Bakken formations of Montana and North Dakota would be added to the Keystone’s current throughput of synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen from the oil sands of Canada.

TransCanada’s head Russ Girling said, “Keystone XL will carry oil from both Canada and the U.S. – a receipt point at Baker, Montana is an important part of the project that will allow Bakken oil to be delivered to U.S. refineries. In fact, American-produced oil is already making its way to Gulf Coast refineries through the southern leg of Keystone.

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Two of the many thousands of anti-Keystone XL demonstrators who have made their views known over the years, San Jose, California, May 8, 2014 (Photo by Neeta Lind)

Valero, the nation’s largest refiner, said last week the company does not plan to export any of the crude it has contracted to transport through the Keystone XL pipeline. They said they intend to process that crude and turn it into products at its refineries on the Gulf Coast to be used by Americans – gasoline, diesel, aviation fuels and many other products,” said Girling. “After 2,200 days and five environmental reviews totaling 17,000 pages it is time to move this project forward as it has passed the environmental GHG test.”

Environmental and landowner groups breathed a sigh of relief as the Senate bill was rejected.

“The bill would have turned Congress into a permitting authority, overriding environmental law, and giving a green light to a pipeline project that would worsen climate change and threaten water quality. The Senate did the right thing to reject the misguided bill, and now the President should do the right thing and reject the pipeline,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said, “We applaud the Senators who stood up for the health of our families and our climate by fighting back against this big polluter-funded sideshow. There’s no good reason the Senate should have wasted all this time on yet another meaningless push for Keystone XL. Since day one, the decision on the pipeline has belonged to President Obama, and he has repeatedly said he will reject this pipeline if it contributes to the climate crisis. As there is no doubt that it does, we remain confident that is precisely what he’ll do.”

“Today’s defeat of Keystone XL should send a strong signal to the incoming GOP-led Congress that farmers and ranchers will never back down to their oil soaked intentions. We call on President Obama to stand up and reject Keystone XL now,” said Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska.

“After the recent election the Republicans expressed the desire to work with President Obama. We hope that Congress is serious about this and that they will stop having these votes and let the Presidential Permit process play out as it has been designed to do,” said Paul Seamans, a Dakota Rural Action member whose land is crossed by the proposed Keystone XL.

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