Senate says climate change is real, but build KXL

WiG and AP reports

UPDATE on Jan. 29: The U.S. Senate on Jan. 29 voted to approve legislation to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The vote was 62-36. Nine Democrats voted with 53 Republicans for the measure.

The Republican-controlled Senate on Jan. 21 voted 98-1 for a measure declaring, simply, “Climate change is real and not a hoax.”

But the Senate, taking a series of votes that set the stage for an upcoming major vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline, ultimately turned away from the mountain of evidence that puts much blame for climate change on humans.

The votes in the Senate came as scientists revealed that 2014 was the hottest year on record and less than a day after President Barack Obama called global warming one of the greatest threats to future generations.

The votes came as residents along a section of the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana were dealing with the pollution from a ruptured pipeline and as a federal court attempted to determine how much BP must pay in fines for the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

And the Senate votes came as a Canadian company moved to grab, via eminent domain, Nebraska farm and ranch land that is needed in the event the Keystone XL Pipeline gets approved.

While overwhelmingly approving the measure declaring climate change “real,” the Senate majority rejected measures that said human activities — in particular the burning of fossil fuels to power plants, vehicles and factories — contributed to the warming of the planet.

“Climate is changing and climate has always changed and always will,” said U.S. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. “There is archeological evidence of that, there is biblical evidence of that, there is historical evidence of that.” Inhofe said those who believe in man-made climate change are “arrogant.”

The day before, in his sixth State of the Union address, Barack Obama challenged deniers like Inhofe, saying, “The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate.”

Polls show a majority of Americans also believe human activities are changing the climate. 

“We wouldn’t be shocked if the Senate decides to vote against gravity, amend the periodic table or express its sense that two plus two might actually equal five,” said environmental activist Jason Kowalski, police director of the group 350 Action. “While it’s certainly clear … that these senators are not scientists, it’s also clear that they have no interest in science as a basis for public policy. That’s why no one is surprised that climate deniers have made it their mission to shill for Keystone XL.”

Politics and the pipeline

The GOP leadership placed approval of the KXL at the top of its agenda for 2015, claiming the pipeline will generate jobs and reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. The pipeline would send about 80,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Canada across the United States to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, the State Department has indicated it will close a public comment period on the pipeline review in early February. After the review, the State Department will make a recommendation on the issue to the president.

For now, TransCanada, the pipeline’s developer, is pushing forward with securing the land needed to finish the project. The company, on Jan. 20, filed papers in nine Nebraska counties to seize by eminent domain the land of farmers and ranchers resisting the project.

“This is just another bullying move by the foreign corporation that swears they are going to be a good neighbor,” said Nebraska landowner Jim Tarnick. “From the Kalamazoo to the Yellowstone rivers and all across the United States, tar sands are a horrible danger and threat that the president must reject.”

Meghan Hammond is a Nebraska landowner who says her family-owned clean energy project would have to be torn down to make way for the KXL.

She’s also concerned about the potential for environmental damage if the pipeline is approved.

“My family farms and ranches every day in order to put food on Americans’ tables,” she said. “We cannot survive as a family business without clean water. Our government has no solution to clean up tar sands and benzene from our water. Our land is not for sale and we will keep fighting TransCanada until we see their taillights go back across our border.”

As Hammond was voicing concerns about water contamination, residents in eastern Montana were dealing with benzene in their public water supplies. The cancer-causing component of oil was detected downstream from a Yellowstone River pipeline spill. 

“It’s scary,” Mickey Martini of Glendive, Montana, told the AP. “I don’t know how they’re going to take care of this.”