Republicans obstruct majority vote as oil industry lobbies against Markey amendment


WASHINGTON (January 20, 2015) – After years of the oil industry claiming building Keystone XL would increase energy security, and after months of Senate Republicans promising an open amendment process in the U.S. Senate, Senate Republican leaders today blocked a vote on an amendment offered by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) to keep the Canadian tar sands oil that would be transported through Keystone and the refined gasoline, diesel and other fuels produced from that oil, here in America for our consumers.


Instead of holding a majority up-or-down vote, Senate Republicans used a procedural move to “table” the amendment, which stops debate on the amendment and prevents a straight up-or-down vote. Republicans voted to table the Markey amendment in a vote of 57-42.


The American Petroleum Institute and other oil industry groups had been lobbying against the Markey amendment, saying that it goes against their larger strategy to lift the decades-old ban on exporting American oil as well. In a letter sent to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the groups said that the Markey amendment to keep Keystone oil in America “would set a very bad precedent with regard to the pressing need to repeal the current ban on exports of U.S. oil.”


“On the first amendment, to the first bill, in the first days of the Republican-controlled Senate, they are siding with the oil industry and blocking a vote on my amendment to keep oil and gasoline here in America for consumers and businesses,” said Senator Markey. “Senate Republicans promised an open amendment process, but they are closing off debate, and not allowing a vote on the very first amendment considered by the Senate. Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have made promises that it would increase our energy security, but when they are given the chance to support keeping that oil in the United States, they actively oppose my amendment to do so. Keystone XL isn’t about helping people at the pump, it’s about pumping up profits for oil companies, and blocking my amendment proves it. We should not build the Keystone XL pipeline. I will continue to fight to ensure that if we are going to ask the United States to bear all of the environmental risk of transporting this dirty Canadian oil, we ensure that it is not simply re-exported to foreign nations.”


Previously, then-Representative Markey challenged TransCanada on this question at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in December 2011. There he asked Alexander Pourbaix, TransCanada's President of Energy and Oil Pipelines, whether he would commit to including a requirement in TransCanada's long-term contracts with Gulf Coast refineries, as a condition of shipping, that all refined fuels produced from oil transported through the Keystone XL pipeline be sold in the United States. In response, Mr. Pourbaix stated "no, I can’t do that."