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Senate passes bill to approve controversial Keystone XL Pipeline

Young protesters express their opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline. Photo from Wica Agli / Facebook

The Senate voted 62 to 36 on Thursday to pass S.1, a bill to authorize the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline despite a veto threat by President Barack Obama.

Nine Democrats joined 53 Republicans in approving the Keystone XL Pipeline Act. They included two members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee -- Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the vice chairman, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota).

"The Keystone pipeline will make our nation more energy secure and it will create jobs in Montana," Tester said in a press release. "I urge President Obama to sign the bill into law. But Keystone is not the only solution for our energy future. We must step up our work to make cleaner energy alternatives a larger part of our nation's energy strategy."

“Americans are counting on us to work for them, and that means supporting projects, like the Keystone pipeline that are in the best interest of our energy, economic, and national security," Heitkamp said in a
press release. "If we truly want North American energy independence and if we mean what we say when we talk about seeking an all-of-the-above energy plan, we have to unite on commonsense infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline that are good for North Dakota and the U.S."

The House passed H.R.3, a slightly different approval bill, earlier this month. The differences could be ironed out by a joint conference committee or the House could simply approve the Senate version.

Tribes along the pipeline route oppose the project due to concerns about treaty territory, water and the environment. Their concerns have largely been ignored in the U.S. Congress -- an amendment that would have required tribal consultation wasn't even brought up for a vote on the Senate floor.

The amendment was drafted by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland). It specifically mentioned the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868 -- the pipeline route crosses lands promised to tribes by the treaties.

S.Amdt.124 read:

Nothing in this Act may change, suspend, supersede, or abrogate any trust obligation or treaty requirement of the United States with respect to any Indian nation, Indian tribe, individual Indian, or Indian tribal organization, including the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868, without consultation with, and the informed and express consent of, the applicable Indian nation, Indian tribe, individual Indian, or Indian tribal organization as required under Executive Order 13175 (67 Fed. Reg. 67249) (November 6, 2000).

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, whose member oppose the pipeline, worked with Cardin's office on the language of the amendment.

Get the Story:
Senate passes Keystone XL pipeline bill despite Obama promise to veto (The Washington Post 1/30)
Senate Approves Keystone XL Pipeline Bill, Testing Obama (The New York Times 1/30)
Senate passes bill approving Keystone XL oil pipeline (AP 1/29)

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