Senate rejects Keystone XL amendments, adopts Macondo fine measure

The US Senate rejected two amendments related to the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline project, but accepted one that would direct 80% of fines assessed to BP PLC for the Macondo deepwater well crude oil spill to affected Gulf Coast states as part of the surface transportation bill.

The Mar. 8 votes followed reports that US President Barack Obama personally lobbied senators to reject an amendment cosponsored by Republicans John Hoeven (ND), Richard D. Lugar (Ind.), and David Vitter (La.) aimed at authorizing Keystone XL. It fell 4 votes short of the required 60-vote super-majority at 56 to 42 votes.

American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said prior to the vote that Obama’s reported lobbying against the amendment was more aggressive opposition to the project than simply rejecting its cross-border permit application because he believe Congress had not given him enough time to consider associated environmental issues.

“The chorus of bipartisan support for Keystone is growing,” Gerard observed following the vote. “Recently, President Bill Clinton said we should ‘embrace’ this pipeline. It’s time to approve Keystone XL and immediately put the president’s ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy in place to help create downward pressure on crude oil prices to the benefit of consumers.”

Senators also voted down Ronald L. Wyden’s (D-Ore.) proposed amendment, which would have barred exports of crude oil shipped through Keystone XL unless it was constructed with US materials, by 34 to 64 votes.

They also passed by 76 to 22 votes the amendment cosponsored by Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) and Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) to assure that most of the fines collected from BP for violating the federal Clean Water Act with the Macondo well spill will reach affected Gulf Coast communities and ecosystems. The US House passed a version of the measure last month, its Senate sponsors noted following the vote.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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