House to vote on Senate-passed KXL bill next week

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on whether to adopt the KXL pipeline bill approved by the Senate.

The chamber’s majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced Tuesday his intention to move the controversial proposal to President Barack Obama’s desk.

“Next week we will take up the Keystone pipeline as passed by the Senate and send it to the President’s desk,” McCarthy said during a press conference.

If the House, as expected, passes S.1 without changes, then Obama will soon be in a position to impose a promised veto of the legislation.

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Senate Democrats block Keystone XL bill

The legislation that aims to bypass President Barack Obama’s role in deciding whether to allow construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline has hit a roadblock in the U.S. Senate.

That chamber’s minority Democrats filibustered the bill Monday, preventing majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., from moving to a vote on its merits.

Two votes were held in an attempt by McConnell and the Senate’s GOP caucus to obtain cloture, or an end to debate, on S.1. Both failed, with only 53 senators voting to end debate.

Sixty affirmative votes are needed to obtain cloture.

Among those who voted to move immediately to a vote on the merits of the legislation were four Democrats: Michael F. Bennet of Colorado, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Every Republican senator who was present in the chamber for the cloture votes cast their ballot in favor of ending the filibuster.

The Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives approved a KXL pipeline bill shortly after the commencement of the 114th Congress earlier this month.

President Barack Obama has promised to veto any legislation that interferes with his discretion to grant or withhold the permit needed for the pipeline developer to construct the project across the U.S.-Canada border.

Senate kills two more proposals to acknowledge anthropogenic climate change

The U.S. Senate again refused on Thursday to acknowledge the human role in climate change, voting down two proposals that would have forced members to go on record as recognizing scientific reality.

Senators first rejected an amendment to the underlying bill authorizing the KXL oil pipeline that specified that climate change is “real” and “caused by human activities” and “has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world.” The proposal, offered by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also included language that encouraged research into “clean fossil fuel technology.”

The Senate tabled the amendment, 53-46, with only one Republican – Mark Kirk of Illinois – voting with Democrats to allow floor debate on its merits.

Later, an amendment introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that also acknowledged human impacts on the atmosphere and oceans and that emphasized the importance of developing non-fossil fuel energy sources was also tabled.

The chamber, with every one of 54 majority Republicans opposed to it, voted 56-42 to table it. Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp of oil-producing state North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri also voted to deny consideration of its merits.

Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced late Thursday night that the Senate would not consider additional amendments to S.1. A vote on whether to cut off floor debate on the bill itself is expected early next week.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any bill that interferes with his authority to decide whether or not to grant the permit required to construct the KXL pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border.

GOP Senate, considering contentious amendments to KXL pipeline bill, declines to acknowledge human cause of climate change

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, sponsored an amendment to a controversial pipeline bill that would have put the U.S. Senate on record as acknowledging that humans are responsible for ongoing climate change. Courtesy Wikimedia.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, sponsored an amendment to a controversial pipeline bill that would have put the U.S. Senate on record as acknowledging that humans are responsible for ongoing climate change. Courtesy Wikimedia.

The Senate refused today to acknowledge that humans are causing climate change, defeating an amendment to the controversial KXL pipeline bill by a Hawaiian legislator that would have recognized that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat, filed the amendment.

“This amendment affirms something very simple; that is, climate change is real and human activities significantly contribute to climate change,” Schatz said when  he introduced the amendment Tuesday. “It also states that a warmer planet causes large-scale changes, including higher sea levels, changes in precipitation, and altered weather patterns, such as increases in more extreme weather events.”

“The purpose of this amendment is simply to acknowledge and restate a set of observable facts,” he continued. “It is not intended to place a value judgment on those facts of suggest a specific course of action in response to those facts.”

The amendment was defeated, 50-49, on a motion to table.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and the influential chairperson of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, urged her Republican colleagues to oppose the Schatz amendment because it contained the word “significantly.”

Earlier, senators accepted another amendment that acknowledges that climate change is occurring but that does not include language that admits human culpability. That provision, proposed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., earned 98 “aye” votes. Only one member of the chamber, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., voted “no.”

According to a report in Science Insider, even climate change denier Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., voted for the Whitehouse amendment, explaining that “climate has always changed” and that “the hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful to think they can change climate.”

The Republicans also introduced an amendment addressing climate change. That measure, sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., specified that climate change is happening and that humans are responsible, but also specified that the KXL pipeline would not contribute to the phenomenon. It failed on a 59-40 vote, falling one vote short of the needed sixty.

The Hoeven amendment was voted own despite support from all but one of the chamber’s Democratic and independent members. The only senator from that group who did not vote for it was Democratic minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is recovering from an injury and has not been present or cast any votes since the 114th Congress opened earlier this month.

Only 15 Republicans voted “yes” for their own party’s amendment to recognize the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Even its sponsor, Hoeven, voted “no.” The only GOP senators to support the amendment were Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Yet another climate change-related amendment, this one by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., may yet come to the floor.

Other amendments likely to be considered in coming days include one by Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer that would add to the prerequisites to be met before a President could designate a national monument and another by Utah Republican Mike Lee that would cap attorney fees recoverable by plaintiffs under the Endangered Species Act.


COMMENTARY: Inhofe’s distortions and ignorance demean Senate and debate over oil pipeline

That famous climate change-denying curmudgeon James M. Inhofe is at it again, and this time his willful denial of facts and slander of scientists is casting a sad shadow over the U.S. Senate as it starts a new Congress with a debate over the controversial KXL oil pipeline.

Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, is well-known for his refusal to accept that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are changing the climate of Earth. Among the greatest hits of this man’s obtuse failure to recognize reality are these memorable comments:

  • “[T]his 97% [of climate scientists accepting human-caused global warming], that doesn’t mean anything. I named literally thousands of scientists on the floor…and these were top people.” – Source
  • “Regarded as the ‘greatest scandal of our generation’ by the UK Telegraph, “Climategate,” as the scandal is called, discloses what scientists over the years had been telling me: the so-called ‘consensus’ is simply wrong.” – Source
  • “In short, some parts of the IPCC process resembled a Soviet-style trial, in which the facts are predetermined, and ideological purity trumps technical and scientific rigor. ” – Source
  • “The claim that global warming is caused by man-made emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science.” – Source

During the 114th Congress, which started earlier this month after an election in November that saw Republicans gain control of the Senate and expand their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, Inhofe will chair the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. He is, therefore, in an influential position and one might expect that, as such, he might choose his words more judiciously. Unfortunately, the 80-year old from Tulsa continues to display both both belligerence and ignorance.

Last week, Inhofe added to his infamy. During a debate on a proposed amendment to ban the export of oil carried in the KXL pipeline, Inhofe marred the Senate’s deliberation by lambasting scientists and by, again, raising the false accusation that climatologists are lying about mankind’s impact on the planet’s climate. He also misrepresented the meaning of a scientific paper to give credence to his misguided beliefs.

“[E]ven if someone is a believer that the world is coming to an end, that global warming is going to kill everybody and it is all due to man-made gas, if they truly believe that still, even in spite of that, it is not going to reduce worldwide emissions. I guess that is what they want to do, so we hear about the consensus,” Inhofe said.

“I remember at that time I made a speech on this floor questioning the science. I said, ‘I assume there are scientists out there are not part of the IPCC – that is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – and that those scientists know better. They know what the reality is,'” Inhofe continued. “I started getting phone calls. I got phone calls from scientists.”

Inhofe explained that 58 “recognized scientists,” including climate change denier Richard S. Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had contacted him.

He later explained that there is no consensus in the scientific community that climate change is happening because “63 percent of weather-casters believe any global warming that is occurring is the result of natural variation and not human activities.”

Inhofe also claimed that a paper published in Nature during 2013 casts doubt on the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

“Nature journal, which is a well-respected journal, in their 2013 paper said that there is considerable uncertainty as to whether [increases in extreme climate variability] is occurring,” the Oklahoman said.

He was referring to an August 2013 paper that concluded only that, in a warmed world, the range between high and low temperatures would not necessarily expand. The paper articulated no conclusions about the impact of climate change on mean temperatures. As lead author Dr. Chris Huntingford, a climatologist at the Center for Ecology and Hydrology in the United Kingdom, explained in an email message:

“Our Nature paper strictly analyzes only year-to-year variability (fluctuations) in temperature, and demonstrates that in some parts of the world, this is actually going down. Elsewhere it is going up. This may be seen in both direct measurements and in supporting climate model simulations. This goes against the view
that maybe, as general global warming occurs, everywhere will additionally see larger year-to-year swings in temperature.

“However, we do not at any point offer evidence against a general on-going background and upwards warming trend. Detection and attribution statistical studies show that the observed average increasing temperatures are almost certainly a consequence of the burning of fossil fuels.”

Inhofe also invoked the discredited “Climategate” claim that climatologists have fabricated research. Multiple reviews have concluded that such claims are false.

“Climategate was when they analyzed some of the things IPCC had said and they had all these quotes and emails that totally debunked the credibility of IPCC,” Inhofe asserted. “Still today they are talking about it.”

These arguments, steeped in a deeply flawed understanding about the nature of science and a willingness to deceive the American people about what scientists know about our changing climate, are despicable. The question whether the Obama administration should grant the permit needed to build the KXL pipeline across the Canada-U.S. border is an important one; some members of Congress who support the pipeline argue that constructing it will result in lower overall greenhouse gas emissions than blocking it. Others make the point that the oil that would move through it is filthy and likely to further delay a needed transition away from fossil fuels. Whatever their perspectives, many contributors to the debate on KXL that has happened in both chambers of Congress this month have made their arguments cogently, honestly, and intelligently.

That is, unfortunately, not the way that Mr. Inhofe has done it. He’s not the only one, of course, but here’s the thing that bears emphasis: Members of Congress have a privilege to say whatever they want on the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives, but they should not abuse that privilege by making comments that are utterly foolish and that do nothing to advance an intelligent discussion of either energy policy or an American response to the growing climate change crisis.

Mr. Inhofe should do the people of this country the courtesy of learning what science is, how it works, and why it indisputably teaches that the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will change the climate before he knocks the efforts of climatologists. And is it too much to ask that he, or at least his staff, read a scientific paper before, yes, lying about its conclusions on the floor of the United States Senate?