In a victory for environmentalists and green energy activists everywhere, the Senate yesterday voted against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that was slotted to run from the dirty tar sands in Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The pipeline has been at the center of a political debate in the United States, with most Democrats and the President on one side arguing against it for low job prospects and environmental concerns, and many Republicans pushing for it with arguments about the economy and friendly oil. The Senate was voting on the Northern half of the pipeline, which needed a Presidential Permit because it crossed international borders. TransCanada, the builder of the pipeline, announced last week that they were going ahead with building the southern half of the pipeline because it didn’t need special permitting.
The Senate vote was close, with 56 voting against and 42 for, but it was defeated nonetheless which many are calling a triumph thanks to a change in tide over the last year. In 2011, it was all but assured that the pipeline would be built but environmentalists like Bill McKibben and his team at 350.org refused to give up. McKibben, in a letter to his supporters today, applauded the Senate but warned that this is a “temporary victory” and that there’s no “guarantee that it holds for the long run.” He urged his supporters to stay vigilant.
“The reason this fight has been so hard is because of the financial power of the fossil fuel industry, so that’s what we’re going after now. We’ve been playing defense for months, now we’ve got to quickly go on offense,” McKibben wrote in the note to his supporters. “Going forward, we’ll be working with the huge majorities of Americans who want to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. We’ve learned a lot, not all of it savory, about how the political process works and we’re going to put that to use.”
350.org was at the center of the protests that are credited with helping to stop the momentum of the pipeline. He was arrested during the effort along with many of his fellow protestors. The Keystone XL pipeline has been questioned by the President, the US State Department, and environmental experts partly because of the harried way in which Republicans in the House of Representatives wanted to approve it. Republicans have been attempting to force the decision before the November elections without proper environmental and safety reviews. The Senate’s decision doesn’t end the fight, but it makes it pretty plausible that the final ruling will be put off for quite awhile.
Photos by Tar Sands Action and Lauri Gorham on Flickr