The fight to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline continues. Six Republican senators, including Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnel, filed an amendment on Monday, February 13 to a highway funding bill that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The $7 billion TransCanada pipeline would extend from Alberta, Canada to Texas oil refineries, carrying oil extracted from Alberta tar sands through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking, in short, is an environmental nightmare.
The real heros of this drama are three organizations, 350.org, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Credo Action, which issued a call for people to sign a petition against including the Keystone pipeline provision in the funding bill at 9 a.m. on Monday. Within a few hours “dozens of other organizations and citizen groups,” according to Mother Nature Network (MNN) climbed aboard the petition drive, and by early afternoon had gathered 300,000 signatures. Within eight hours, by 5 p.m., the organizations gathered 500,000 signatures.
The current transportation funding bill expires on March 31, and since 2009, Congress has not been able to agree on long-term funding. The amendment to approve the pipeline may not get included in the bill, and if it did, it would require 60 votes for approval. There are 47 Republicans in the Senate, but some Democrats support the pipeline, bringing the number dangerously close to 60. If Obama’s announcement last month that the pipeline would be put on hold until more environmental reviews of the Nebraska section are conducted is an indication, he may not sign it. We can only hope, with proverbial fingers crossed, that he will not sign it if the amendment ends up included in the funding bill.
The House is also scheduled to consider its version of the highway funding bill this week, which includes a provision directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a permit within 30 days.
The other Republican senators that joined McConnell in filing the amendment are John Hoeven, Richard Lugar, David Vitter, Mike Johanns and Orrin Hatch.
“We believe Keystone is an important infrastructure project for this country. We will continue to work with leadership and all our colleagues to get a vote on the amendment and get it passed,” said Ryan Bernstein, a senior aide to North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “Keystone jobs are a priority.’
McConnell and other Republicans in Congress, not to mention Democrats who support the pipeline, need to be aware that the gathering of half a million signatures within eight hours means that “business as usual is over in Washington,” as MNN put it. The petition drive may have set a record for the fastest “digital slap-down of Congress in history,” MNN added. Clearly many Americans oppose the pipeline. Whether Congress will listen to the people who elected them into office remains to be seen.
Photo credit: Flickr user, tarsandaction