Senate passes bill approving Keystone XL oil pipeline – U-T San Diego


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Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, speaks about Keystone XL, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)The Associated Press

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Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, speaks about Keystone XL, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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From left, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meet with reporters after winning a critical procedural vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. The passed later in a 62-36 vote. The bill authorizes construction of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil primarily from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)The Associated Press

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From left, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meet with reporters after winning a critical procedural vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. The passed later in a 62-36 vote. The bill authorizes construction of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil primarily from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. smiles as he returns to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, after passing a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The 62-36 vote advanced a top priority of the newly empowered GOP, which championed the legislation despite a presidential veto threat. The bill authorizes construction of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil primarily from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)The Associated Press

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. smiles as he returns to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, after passing a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The 62-36 vote advanced a top priority of the newly empowered GOP, which championed the legislation despite a presidential veto threat. The bill authorizes construction of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil primarily from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber to manage the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. The Republican-controlled Senate moved toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many expected battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)The Associated Press

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber to manage the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. The Republican-controlled Senate moved toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many expected battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, following the Keystone XL pipeline vote. The Republican-controlled Senate moved Thursday toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many expected battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)The Associated Press

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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, following the Keystone XL pipeline vote. The Republican-controlled Senate moved Thursday toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many expected battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., turns to leave at the end of a news conference about Keystone XL, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican-controlled Senate moved Thursday toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many expected battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)The Associated Press

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Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., turns to leave at the end of a news conference about Keystone XL, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican-controlled Senate moved Thursday toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many expected battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many battles with the White House over energy and the environment.

The 62-36 vote advanced a top priority of the newly empowered GOP, and marked the first time the Senate passed a bill authorizing the pipeline, despite numerous attempts to force President Barack Obama’s hand on the issue. Nine Democrats joined with 53 Republicans to back the measure.

This bill “is an important accomplishment for the country,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “We are hoping the president upon reflection will agree to sign on to a bill that the State Department said could create up to 42,000 jobs and the State Department said creates little to no impact on the environment.”

Still the vote was short of the threshold needed to override a veto, and the legislation still must be reconciled with the version the House passed.

“We hope President Obama will now drop his threat to veto this common-sense bill that would strengthen our energy security and create thousands and thousands of new, good-paying American jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner.

Most Democrats framed the bill as a gift to a foreign oil company that would have little benefit for the American people, because much of the oil would be exported. They tried and failed to get amendments on the bill to construct the pipeline with U.S. steel, ban exports of the oil and the products refined from it, and protect water resources.

The Senate agreed to add an energy efficiency measure, and went on the record saying climate change was not a hoax and the oil sands should be subject to a tax that helps pay for oil spill cleanups. Oil sands are currently exempt.

“This bill is a disgrace,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Senate environment committee. “We tried on our side to make this a better bill and they turned us away.”

TransCanada Corp., the pipeline’s developer, disputed the export argument Thursday, saying it didn’t make sense.

“Those who argue this pipeline is for export are not being factual,” said Russ Girling, president and CEO of TransCanada. “It’s time to approve Keystone XL so we can transport Canadian and American oil to fuel the everyday lives of the American people.”

In Philadelphia, anti-pipeline protesters chanted outside a hotel where Obama was addressing a retreat of Democratic lawmakers: “Hey, Obama, we don’t want no Keystone drama.”

First proposed in 2008, the $8 billion pipeline project has been beset by delays in Nebraska over its route and at the White House, where the president has resisted prior efforts by Congress to force him to make a decision. In 2012, Obama rejected the project after Congress attached a measure to a payroll tax cut extension that gave him a deadline to make a decision. The pipeline’s developer, TransCanada Corp., then reapplied.

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