An amendment to the nation's transportation bill that would have allowed the Keystone XL pipeline to begin construction fell 4 votes shy of passing in the Senate.
Senators voted 56 to 42 in support of the amendment, but it needed 60 votes to pass. The Republican sponsored amendment would have accepted previous environmental reviews and allowed Transcanada to begin construction while still giving time to choose a route through Nebraska.
Republican Senator Mike Johanns voted in favor of the amendment while Democrat Ben Nelson voted against.
The amendment was one of two pipeline related amendments that hit the floor for debate. Late Wednesday night party leaders agreed on allowing votes on 30 different amendments to the transportation bill that has been stuck in the Senate. The amendments ranged from restoration of the Gulf of Mexico to funding for rural schools.
A Democrat sponsored amendment would have put the pipeline on the fast track as well, but it included restrictions that Republicans said would kill the project. Democrats wanted to require the steel used to make the pipe came from the U.S. and wanted to ban the export of any of the oil that would flow through the line.
That amendment failed 34 to 64, it also needed 60 votes to pass. Both Nebraska Senators voted against that amendment.
Shawn Howard with Transcanada said the company was monitoring the votes and was encouraged by how close Sen. Hoeven's amendment was to passing. Howard said Transcanada was in support of that legislation and grateful that there was an attempt to speed up a process that has taken several years up to this point. Howard also said Transcanada was against the Democrat sponsored bill because it would have been costly and would have slowed the project down even more. Howard said the consumer would have seen an increase in oil prices if the Keystone XL had to follow those restrictions.
President Barack Obama spoke out against the Republican amendment and there were reports that he called key Democrats that were undecided to lobby them to vote no.
The President rejected the proposed $7 billion pipeline
in January, citing uncertainty over a yet-to-be-settled route that
avoids the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region in Nebraska.
Obama said there was not enough time for a fair review before a
deadline forced on him by Republicans.
Pipeline supporters call it an important job creator. Opponents
say it would transport "dirty oil" that requires huge amounts of
energy to produce.
Transcanada officials said they plan on sending a new application to the State Department soon and say they are working with Nebraska environmental officials on a new route through the state.