The U.S. Senate will be voting today on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. Some Democrats are pushing for it in order to assist the re-election chances of Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, even though Landrieu’s opponent in the run-off election, Congressman Bill Cassidy, also sponsored legislation in the House to force through the pipeline.
I don’t think anybody is going to fall for this charade.
Mary Landrieu would, frankly, not be a big loss to Democrats in the Senate. Let he go. If she can’t win it on the merits, let her go.
I’m also of a mixed view on the pipeline. As some of you may know the XL project is just the fourth phase of the existing pipeline system. It was proposed in 2008 and we still don’t have a decision on it. The XL Pipeline would essentially duplicate the Phase I pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta, and Steele City, Nebraska,with a shorter route and a larger-diameter pipe.
I know that opponents of the pipeline think it will slow the development of Canadian oil sands — and there is also a separate concern about it traversing the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska — but I’m not so sure that failing to approve the XL project will actually slow oil sands extraction. Instead it may just lead to more and more oil being transported by rail. That has already happened to a significant degree, and the dangers of that are self-evident. The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013 where 42 people were killed and half the town was blown up, is exhibit A.
It’s not that I don’t think exploitation of the oil sands will contribute seriously to global warming. It’s just that I don’t believe that anything is likely to stop the exploitation of the oil sands. There’s too much money wrapped up in that.
Kate Sheppard from Mother Jones, in an article published back in August of 2011, makes several persuasive arguments against the XL pipeline. These include that the Keystone line has already leaked a dozen times in just one year of operation; that the XL pipeline would cross more than 70 rivers and streams; and that it would cross as well the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides nearly one-third of the groundwater used to irrigate US crops, which supports $20 billion in agriculture, and which supplies drinking water to about 2 million people.
The Senate voted not to force the construction of the XL pipeline by the narrowest of margins — 59 for and 41 against — but one short of the 60 votes needed by the majority. Here is how individual Senator’s voted: Roll Call of S.2280.