State Dept eyes rerouting Keystone XL pipeline
Demonstrators call for the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline during a rally in front of the White House in Washington November 6, 2011. Reuters

A congressional Republican bid to fast-track the Keystone XL Pipeline failed in the Senate Thursday as Democrats voted the motion down.

The Democratic-led body killed the measure, 56 votes for to 42 against. To close debate and pass the measure, Republicans needed 60 votes. Eleven Democrats voted with them.

We're going to continue this fight, said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who championed the bill, Reuters reported.

He said the measure might still be attached to the highway funding package when the Senate and House of Representatives work on a final version.

With gas prices going up every day, with what's going on in the Middle East, I'll tell you what: the pressure is just going to increase on the administration to get this project done, Hoeven said.

Once again, Republicans are trying to play politics with a pipeline project whose route has yet to be proposed, said White House spokesman Clark Stevens.

Environmentalist writer and activist Bill McKibben, who led protests outside the White House against Keystone, said in a statement: Today's vote was a temporary victory and there's no guarantee that it holds for the long run. We're grateful to the administration for denying the permit and for Senate leadership for holding the line.

The vote comes on the heels of the White House welcoming the news that TransCanada is ready to reapply for the permits needed to extend the already-built Keystone Pipeline through Nebraska from Canada and on to Oklahoma.

The White House, on Feb. 27, also backed TransCanada's plan to build the southern half of the Keystone Pipeline as an independent project separate from the border-crossing northern section.

The standalone project would link the major pipeline hub of Cushing, Okla., to refineries along the Texas Gulf coast.

President Barack Obama in January originally denied TransCanada's first permit, citing how congressional Republicans were imposing a deadline on what remains a controversial project. At the time, all the president had to do to greenlight the project was to declare it in the national interest.

The pipeline has $7 billion price tag, and if it ever gets completed, is expected to carry 1.1 million barrels of oil a day into the U.S., which proponents of the project say will help insulate the U.S. from foreign imports.

The standalone southern portion of the pipeline will cost $2.3 billion, said TransCanada.

The company had said immediately following the president's permit denial that the pipeline could be completed by 2014.

Environmentalists say the pipeline could hurt the environment as it transports dirty tar-sands oil from Canada over the Great Plains.

By a 34-64 vote Thursday, senators also defeated a proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would have blocked exports of oil from the pipeline, as well as refined products made from that oil, Reuters reported. Wyden said lawmakers need to carefully think through projects that would increase exports of oil, fuel and natural gas, lest the exports end up boosting prices for Americans.