What: All Issues : Environment : Global Warming : (S. 1) On an amendment to delay construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline until the federal government issued rules on the storage and transportation of petroleum coke (2015 senate Roll Call 8)
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(S. 1) On an amendment to delay construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline until the federal government issued rules on the storage and transportation of petroleum coke
senate Roll Call 8     Jan 21, 2015
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

 

This vote was on an amendment that would have delayed construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline until the federal government issued rules on the storage and transportation of petroleum coke.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Keystone pipeline would connect Canada’s oil sands to the United States and, by extension, the global market for petroleum. President Obama’s administration was in the process of reviewing TransCanada’s application to build the cross-border pipeline, but the process had dragged on and become a divisive political symbol. The underlying bill would authorize TransCanada’s permit, cutting short the Obama administration’s deliberations.

Sen. Durbin’s amendment would have delayed approval of the Keystone pipeline until the federal government had developed new regulations on petroleum coke – or “petcoke” – a byproduct of the oil refining process that contains heavy metals. 

Sen. Durbin noted that the Keystone XL would transport massive amounts of petroleum coke-laden oil products through the U.S. mainland. This substance was potentially dangerous, not properly controlled, and raising concerns in communities around the country, he said. 

“When you think of all of the things blowing in the air, how in the world did petcoke end up being treated like fairy dust?” Sen. Durbin said. “It is exempt from laws relating to hazardous waste and materials… It is time we put the health and well-being of Americans ahead of the profits of any industry involved in the processing of Canadian tar sands.”

Opponents of Sen. Durbin’s amendment argued that there was little proof that petroleum coke caused serious health problems. There was no reason for lawmakers to push for regulation of a substance that is not known to be harmful, they said.

“The EPA's own website states – and this is from their website – petroleum coke itself has a low level of toxicity, and there is no evidence of carcinogenicity,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said. “I appreciate the concerns those in neighborhoods (near petroleum coke storage sites) have, but I think it is important that we recognize we are not trying to skip the science.”

The Senate defeated Sen. Durbin’s amendment by a vote of 41-58. Voting “yea” were 40 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 1 Republican. Voting “nay” were 53 Republicans and 5 Democrats. As a result, the Senate moved forward with a bill authorizing construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, but without adding a provision calling for regulation of petroleum coke.

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