'Senate’s Big Oil Benefactors' Slammed for Keystone XL Vote

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by
Common Dreams

'Senate’s Big Oil Benefactors' Slammed for Keystone XL Vote

10 KXL amendment co-sponsors took $8 million from fossil fuel industry

by
Jacob Chamberlain and Jon Queally, staff writers

Kxl Pipeline (Photo: 350.org via Flickr / Creative Commons License)

Updated (6:42 pm):

In a 62-37 vote late Friday, the US Senate passed a non-binding amendment calling for the approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Environmental groups and climate activists were quick to condemn the vote, but said the "symbolic vote" was valuable because it revealed which members of the Senate have received the message on the seriousness posed by climate change and which continue to bend to the demands of industry lobbyists.

A post-vote analysis by Oil Change International, in fact, revealed that supporters of the amendment "received 3.5 times more in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests" than those who voted against it. In total, the researchers found that supporters took an average of $499,648 from the industry before voting for the pipeline, for a total of $30,978,153.

“Today’s vote presents yet another reason why Congress is less popular than root canals,” said the group's campaign director David Turnbull. “Every single effort from Congress to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision has been backed by millions in dirty energy money, and today’s was no different. The vote today was nothing more than a 31 million dollar sideshow whose sole purpose was to kiss the rings of the Senate’s Big Oil benefactors.”

Speaking on behalf of 350.org, the group's co-founder Bill McKibben said: "The fossil fuel industry asked the Senate to approve Keystone XL, but ordinary people around the country pushed back—our 'leaders' ended up taking a  meaningless vote instead, and giving us more months to convince the president not to sign off on this boondoggle."

Sierra Club's executive director Michael Brune also responded to the Senate vote by saying, "Tar sands pipelines have no place in the debate over the federal budget and Congress has no business rubber stamping dangerous, unnecessary Big Oil projects. This vague, nonbinding resolution does nothing but show how eager these Senators are to please their Big Oil masters."

McKibben indicated the vote was not a surprise, but also that the real momentum remained with those opposing the project. "Everything that happens in DC happens ugly, and this is no exception," he said, "but it's been beautiful to watch people rallying around the continent."

McKibben's group promised that their fight against the tar sands pipeline would continue and that the weeks ahead would find them mobilizing their supporters across the country "to hold Senators who sided with Big Oil and voted for Keystone XL accountable."

“It’s high time for President Obama to publicly reject industry corruption of our politics and the toxic Keystone XL Pipeline,” concluded Turnbull.

Here's the roll call from the vote (Alphabetical by Senator Name):

Alexander (R-TN), Yea
Ayotte (R-NH), Yea
Baldwin (D-WI), Nay
Barrasso (R-WY), Yea
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Begich (D-AK), Yea
Bennet (D-CO), Yea
Blumenthal (D-CT), Nay
Blunt (R-MO), Yea
Boozman (R-AR), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Nay
Brown (D-OH), Nay
Burr (R-NC), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Nay
Cardin (D-MD), Nay
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Yea
Coats (R-IN), Yea
Coburn (R-OK), Yea
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Coons (D-DE), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Yea
Cornyn (R-TX), Yea
Cowan (D-MA), Nay
Crapo (R-ID), Yea
Cruz (R-TX), Yea
Donnelly (D-IN), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Nay
Enzi (R-WY), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Nay
Fischer (R-NE), Yea
Flake (R-AZ), Yea
Franken (D-MN), Nay
Gillibrand (D-NY), Nay
Graham (R-SC), Yea
Grassley (R-IA), Yea
Hagan (D-NC), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Nay
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Heinrich (D-NM), Nay
Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea
Heller (R-NV), Yea
Hirono (D-HI), Nay
Hoeven (R-ND), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Johanns (R-NE), Yea
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Johnson (R-WI), Yea
Kaine (D-VA), Nay
King (I-ME), Nay
Kirk (R-IL), Yea
Klobuchar (D-MN), Nay
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Not Voting
Leahy (D-VT), Nay
Lee (R-UT), Yea
Levin (D-MI), Nay
Manchin (D-WV), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Yea
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Menendez (D-NJ), Nay
Merkley (D-OR), Nay
Mikulski (D-MD), Nay
Moran (R-KS), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murphy (D-CT), Nay
Murray (D-WA), Nay
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Paul (R-KY), Yea
Portman (R-OH), Yea
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Nay
Reid (D-NV), Nay
Risch (R-ID), Yea
Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Nay
Rubio (R-FL), Yea
Sanders (I-VT), Nay
Schatz (D-HI), Nay
Schumer (D-NY), Nay
Scott (R-SC), Yea
Sessions (R-AL), Yea
Shaheen (D-NH), Nay
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Nay
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Yea
Toomey (R-PA), Yea
Udall (D-CO), Nay
Udall (D-NM), Nay
Vitter (R-LA), Yea
Warner (D-VA), Yea
Warren (D-MA), Nay
Whitehouse (D-RI), Nay
Wicker (R-MS), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Nay

Earlier:

As U.S. senators prepare to vote on the Senate Budget Resolution Friday the lawmakers will also be considering a slew of amendments proposed for the bill by a group of Big Oil friendly senators, including a bid for slipshod approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Senator John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) has slipped into the budget resolution a proposal for an amendment that would claim Congress has the authority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline over the Executive branch.

The amendment would be largely symbolic, as it could not effectively supersede the powers of the State Department to approve or deny the pipeline, but would serve to garner support for a similar stand alone bill that was pushed by a group of oil friendly senators last week.

"I think it will get him (Obama) to approve [the pipeline] and if he doesn't, I think it will help us to get it done congressionally," Hoeven said.

"If the measure passes, it would be symbolic because the budget is a plan and will not be voted into law," Reuters reports.

However, as NRDC's Danielle Droitsch explains Friday, such an amendment, while nonbinding, "could support the approval and construction of the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline."

She continues:

It does not approve the pipeline, nor does it direct the president to approve it. It is instead an attempt to rattle the cage and call for a vote count on behalf of Big Oil. Senators should stand with the American people, not Big Oil, and vote against this amendment.

"Senate about to vote on KXL: nonbinding, but a good scoreboard of who's taking orders from Big Oil."

“If you understand climate science, there’s no way you can support this pipeline,” said Jason Kowalski, policy director for 350.org. “We know that this pipeline is a boondoggle—it will spill, most of the oil is for export, and it will make climate change worse. Anyone who tells you the opposite isn’t being straight with you or doesn’t know the facts.”

Droitsch continues:

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline threatens American homes, farms, and ranches with tar sands oil spills.  And it threatens all of us by driving the expansion of the giant tar sands reserve and worsening climate change. It would raise oil prices. It would provide few jobs and derail continued growth in clean energy jobs. And it would funnel money to foreign oil corporations. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward and has no place on the budget resolution.

Also Friday, Oil Change International released telling new statistics on the motives behind the Big Oil senators.

According to the group, the 10 senators co-sponsoring the pro-Keystone XL pipeline amendment (Hoeven Amendment 494) have on average taken $807,517 from the fossil fuel industry.

Those numbers, based on data from DirtyEnergyMoney.org, work out to be 254% more money than the average senator not sponsoring the amendment and total over $8 million dollars.

David Turnbull, Campaigns Director of Oil Change International, issued the following statement:

This puts to rest any delusions we might have that the Keystone XL pipeline is about anything but money for the fossil fuel industry and their allies in Congress. [...]

If approved, this non-binding amendment will not change anything in the process of the State Department’s review of the Keystone XL proposal. And it certainly will not change the fact that this pipeline risks our communities and our climate just to ship toxic oil through our country for export around the globe. [...]

The only thing this amendment would actually do is show which Senators would rather follow Big Oil’s money rather than listen to the people who elected them.

And Bill McKibben of 350.org tweeted Friday afternoon:

The Hoeven amendment is co-sponsored by mix of Democrat and Republican Senators: Hoeven (R-ND), Baucus (D-MT), Cornyn (R-TX), Manchin (D-WV), Roberts (R-KS), Heitkamp (D-ND), Barrasso (R-WY), Landrieu (D-LA), Murkowski (R-AK), and Begich (D-AK).

Click here for a slew of other amendments on the docket today, which resemble "a cut-and-paste from Big Polluters’ wish list."

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