Keystone oil pipeline bill fails in Senate

Thu Mar 8, 2012 5:29pm EST
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By Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican proposal to take quick action on the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, in a vote that will give Republicans more ammunition to criticize President Barack Obama's energy policies on the campaign trail.

TransCanada's $7 billion project has been supported by some Democrats in the past, but Obama took the unusual step of calling some senators personally and asking them to vote against the proposal, drawing immediate fire from Republican leaders.

The measure needed 60 votes to pass, but fell four short.

Obama put the project on hold earlier this year pending further environmental review. Republicans argue the pipeline, which would ship oil from Canada and northern U.S. states to Texas, would create jobs and improve energy security at a time of surging gasoline prices. The project will take more than two years to build after winning all approvals.

By proposing the amendment, Republicans sought to wrest the approval process from Obama's control. They have also used the proposal to highlight his decision ahead of November presidential and congressional elections, linking his delaying of the pipeline project to rising gasoline prices.

"At a moment when millions are out of work, gas prices are sky-rocketing and the Middle East is in turmoil, we've got a president who's up making phone calls trying to block a pipeline here at home. It's unbelievable," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Obama has supported construction of the southern leg of the pipeline, and his administration will assess a new route around an environmentally sensitive area of Nebraska once it has been identified, White House spokesman Clark Stevens said.

"Once again, Republicans are trying to play politics with a pipeline project whose route has yet to be proposed," Stevens said.   Continued...

Protestors rally in front of the Lamar County courthouse where landowner Julia Trigg Crawford is set to go to court in a battle with TransCanada over the trenching of her private property for the Keystone pipeline in Paris, Texas February 17, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Stone