Senate Floor Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) In Opposition To S.2280, The Bill To Approve The Keystone XL Pipeline

Later today, the Senate will vote on whether to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.  I strongly oppose the fast-tracking of this process.  This pipeline poses considerable safety and environmental risks here in the United States, and it threatens the natural landscapes that are in the heartland of America.

This pipeline is one of the most striking examples of how our unquenchable thirst for oil is destroying our environment.  This destruction will continue until we move forward with the implementation of a comprehensive, national energy plan.  The debate over the Keystone pipeline will not move us toward a sustainable energy future.  Instead this pipeline ties us to an energy policy of the past, while simultaneously accelerating our impact on the climate.  These tar sands require an energy-intensive process, rife with pollutions and harmful emissions, to get them out of the ground, extract them, and refine them. 

We should not rubberstamp a project like this that poses such serious risks to the Nation’s and the world’s environment, and to our communities’ safety. I am astounded by the fact that in its first year of operation, the existing Keystone Pipeline — which was billed as the safest pipeline in history when it was built in 2010 — has spilled 12 times in its first year of operation.  That is more than any other pipeline in U.S. history.

These spills are even more worrisome because the tar sands oil is so hard to clean up after a spill.  Just ask the communities along the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where it has cost more than $1 billion -- so far -- to clean up a tar sands spill in 2010.  Now, more than four years later, it is still a mess, and landowners continue to wait for help to restore property damaged by the spill and to rebuild the ravaged pipeline.

We do not need more empty assurances from the oil industry.  Before the Valdez spill in Alaska, Exxon executives told us their oil tankers were safe.  We heard similar promises from BP, which insisted that it could handle an oil spill in a deep-water drilling operation.  The images from both of those spills are still fresh in our memories.

Proponents argue that this pipeline will help our energy security here in the United States.  But this tar sands oil is not headed to Americans’ gas stations to help lower the price of gas here at home.  No, TransCanada is bypassing the refineries in the Midwest and heading straight for the coast so this oil can be used in export markets, pumped on ships headed for China.  That may be good news for the Chinese, but it is the American people who are stuck with the safety risks, health challenges, future environmental disasters and the rapid acceleration of our contribution to climate change.

These facts are clear:  The Keystone pipeline significantly worsens the problem of carbon pollution, and it is not in our national interest.  The Presidential Permit should be denied, not fast-tracked by Congress here today.

# # # # #

Press Contact

Press Contact
David Carle: 202-224-3693