Approval of Keystone XL pipeline is uncertain, Senate needs more yes votes

The odds of the Keystone XL pipeline project going ahead aren’t as good as those in favor had hoped for. The US Senate is struggling to approve the project after a few key lawmakers, including Senator Angus King, who was expected to approve the project, announced they would vote against it.

In a news release King said:

“Congress is not – nor should it be – in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project,”

The Senate will be voting at around 5:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday.

The chamber is one vote short of the necessary 60 out of 100 approvals to pass the bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives last week.

In addition, the Senate has been pressuring Democrats such as Chris Coons of Delaware to change their stance on the pipeline project. However, in a similar fashion to King, Coon said that Congress should not issue permits. On Tuesday afternoon a Coons aide said “he’s still a no”.

The project has overwhelming support in the oil-producing state Louisiana, where Democrat Senator Landrieu is campaigning to win a new six-year term in the December run-off election.

The bill was introduced by Landrieu and Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota. When asked by reporters on Tuesday if there would be enough yes votes for the project to go through, Hoeven said “I think so”.

In an interview with MSNBC Hoeven reiterated his belief that there is a good chance, saying:

“We’re at 59 votes confirmed. We’ve got a couple of maybes. I think there’s one or two more that may join. So I think we have a good shot to get it.”

King, an independent, typically votes with Democrats but has been seen a possible swing vote. At one point he said that he’s become frustrated with President Obama’s failure to make a concrete decision on the pipeline, urging him to make one soon.

Keystone XL pipeline

Republicans are in favor of Keystone, a pipeline that would carry over 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to Nebraska.

Environmentalists on the other hand say that by developing the Keystone pipeline there would be a spike of carbon emissions. On the other hand workers and energy firms are clear in saying that the project would help generate thousands of new jobs.

The environmentalist group protested at the offices of Senators Tom Carper of Delaware and Michael Bennet of Colorado, both Democrats, who said that they will be voting yes on the bill.

If the bill does not pass then Hoeven has said he will be reintroducing the bill early next year, when there is a higher possibility of getting the 60 votes necessary – under the assumption that Republicans can gain more seats in the midterm elections.

Some republicans and analysts have said that Obama could very well veto the Keystone bill. He recently said that the project would not reduce fuel prices in the US, but would allow Canada to “pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else.”