Keystone XL Bill Heads to President

Capps Tries to Fix Responsibility for Future Spills

Shortly before the House of Representatives voted 270-152 to greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline on Wednesday, Rep. Lois Capps pushed one final amendment: Make TransCanada financially responsible for any future spill. Though the bill — which passed the Senate in January on a 62-39 vote — is almost certain to be vetoed by President Obama, Republicans have seized the issue as their first opportunity to flex their majority in both houses of Congress.

Capps — who just took a seat on the House’s Natural Resources Committee — referenced the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, as well as the tar sands oil disaster in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2010, to illustrate the losses to the environment and surrounding livelihoods. “[N]o matter if you support or oppose Keystone XL, we can all agree that extracting and transporting oil has serious risks,” she said, according to a press release from her office. “It only takes one small crack, one small mistake to cause a major oil spill and catastrophic, irreparable damage to the surrounding environment and communities. … [A]ccidents have already happened 14 times on the existing section of the Keystone pipeline.”

Her amendment, which she had brought multiple times before, tried once again to bring the Canadian company’s project into the 8¢ per barrel Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which began to be funded after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. The amendment failed, 241-181, and tar sands oil remains outside that Trust Fund. As for Keystone, since the pipeline crosses an international border, the New York Times reported, the president has the final word.

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