Udall Votes Against Keystone XL Pipeline; Colorado Shrugs

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

As the Denver Post's Mark Matthews reports on today's vote by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline, a vote on which Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado dissented:

[M]embers of both parties have called the move a show vote because it’s widely believed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t allow a floor vote on the measure, which would fast-track construction of the [Keystone XL] oil pipeline…

Environmentalists have raised concerns about potential spills and the pipeline's long-term effect on the planet. Supporters say it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy and employment.

During Wednesday's debate on the issue, Udall did not speak — other than to cast a "no" vote against the project.

A Udall spokesman later explained the senator's position.

"He believes the technical review needs to be seen through to the end," said Mike Saccone, referring to ongoing administrative reviews of the pipeline that could extend beyond November's election.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reported just before the vote:

Udall has indicated he will vote against the measure because he believes Congress should wait until the independent review process is completed before taking action, offering a process-based rationale for voting no while leaving the door open to eventually supporting the construction of the pipeline.

We've talked a few times about the ginned-up political controversy over building the Keystone XL pipeline–more correctly, completing an additional section of the line that would speed the delivery of Canadian heavy crude oil to global export terminals in Texas and Louisiana. As we've noted previously, the question is almost totally irrelevant to Colorado energy consumers, since we already have pipelines from Commerce City to the Alberta tar sands. If you live along the Front Range, there's a good chance you're burning Canadian heavy crude in your gas tank right now. Proponents of the pipeline have put out absurdly overestimated job creation figures to hard-sell the pipeline's construction, along with copious doses of "free market" propaganda.

But the truth is, the only real impact on Colorado energy consumers if the Keystone XL Stage 4 is built will be higher local gas prices. By shipping more Canadian heavy crude across the U.S. to Gulf Coast export terminals to global markets, studies forecast a possible 10 to 20 cent per gallon increase for gasoline in the central states.

With all of this in mind, the Keystone XL pipeline is just not an issue that Coloradans have any vested interest in. The strained arguments in favor of building Keystone XL, and shrill attacks on any opponents, are wasted money on most voters because they simply have no reason to care. Polls do show support for the pipeline's construction, but there's no public outcry for doing so despite all the money spent by the energy industry to "raise awareness." Sen. Udall and President Barack Obama's administration have not come out against building the pipeline eventually, just against going ahead with fast-tracked construction ahead of the project's completed reviews and legal challenges. A case pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court challenging the route of the pipeline in that state is the true holdup today, and Udall is on perfectly defensible ground waiting for that to be resolved.

If Republicans want to waste their money attacking Udall on this nonissue, Democrats should let them flail away.

11 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    Well done, Senator.  Well done.

  2. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Yes, we get all the tar sands we need, and some of that Canadian heavy crude has probably contributed to the massive hydrocarbon plume under the Suncor refinery in Commerce City. Thanks, oilmen!

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      Tar sands is Denver's dirty little secret.  All of the JetA for DIA is made from Canadian tar sands at the Suncor facility.  That's why Denver, the nation's sixth-largest airport with annual passenger traffic just over 25 million has a larger carbon emission profile than Atlanta's Hartsfield, the nation's largest with passenger traffic almost 2x that of Denver at 45 million. 

  3. itlduso says:

    Thank you, Senator Udall.  I hope Senator Bennet will be casting a similar vote.

  4. Gray in Mountains says:

    Important to note that, though Cory and the NRCC will say that Udall voted against jobs and energy independence, he simply says "lets wait until the tech review is complete". Because, once the pipeline construction is begun there will be no further discussion. Except, of course, when it breaks and spills on of the most toxic substances to ever be placed in the aquifers. Then there will be lots of discussion 

  5. HarleyHarley says:

    And how much money is being exchanged for certain U.S. plos to vote FOR the pipeline when the First Nation tribes and British Columbia has already rejected it?

    Hey–why not run it up to Churchill on Hudsons Bay?

    Yeah, I know, Hudsons Bay does freeze on occasion—but hey, maybe the oil companies can get lucky with global warming and all and the Bay won't freeze over!   

  6. HarleyHarley says:

    Can't type this morn–I meant pols!

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