After passing through the House last week, legislation in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline fell short by one vote in the Senate.
A bill introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, needed 60 votes to pass but lost 59 to 41. All 45 Republican senators supported the bill, joined by 14 Democrats.
The 1,179-mile pipeline would expedite oil transport from Alberta’s tar sands to Gulf Coast oil refineries, taking a more direct route through the Great Plains than the existing Keystone pipeline. The Canadian National Energy Board approved the project in March 2010, but it has stalled in the United States.
Domestic proponents of the pipeline argue that the $7 billion construction price is well worth the jobs that would be created and the benefit to the U.S. economy. Opponents stress long-term climate costs of expanding the tar sands oil industry; the process of extraction requires a massive use of resources, and when burned, the resulting fuel emits some 17 percent more greenhouse gas than traditional crude.
The bill’s failure is likely just a temporary setback for the pipeline. As reported in the New York Times, Senate Republicans have already vowed to introduce another Keystone bill in early 2015, when they will hold the majority.
You can read Outside’s feature story on the grim effects of tar sands extraction on the people who live next door to the open pits and toxic runoff here.