Exxon: Senate Keystone vote mattered

Oil giant ExxonMobil is making the case that the nonbinding Senate vote in support of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline wasn’t simply political theater.

An ExxonMobil executive took to the company’s blog Tuesday evening to highlight Democratic support for the pipeline in the 62-37 vote.

Seventeen Democrats joined Republicans Friday in favor of TransCanada Corp.’s project. Pipeline backers are using the Democratic support to try and increase political pressure on the White House to support the pipeline, which would bring oil from Canadian oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.

“Critics were quick to note that the Senate’s action won’t green light the pipeline. ... Since authority for approving the pipeline rests with President Obama, they argue, the vote was symbolic. Move along, nothing to see here,” writes Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil’s vice president of public and government affairs.

“Just because it was symbolic, however, doesn’t mean it’s not significant. Indeed, what makes Friday’s vote so important is the degree to which it represents strong and growing support for the project among elected Democrats — 17 of whom voted for the measure — as well as Republicans,” he wrote.


The post is part of a wider battle over interpretation of the nonbinding Senate tussle over Keystone, a project that remains under Obama administration review.

Environmentalists trying to scuttle the pipeline project have downplayed the Senate action.

“Big Oil may have bought themselves this meaningless vote, but the decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline remains where it’s been all along — with Secretary [of State] Kerry and President Obama,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski after the vote.

Similarly, Natural Resources Defense Council Executive Director Peter Lehner said afterward that “their symbolic vote doesn’t change the law or the truth about this dangerous project,” and noted the final decision rests with President Obama.

But Exxon’s Cohen noted that a vote on Keystone last year garnered 56 backers, while the addition of six Democratic supporters upped the tally on Friday.

He writes that the growing support “seems to reflect a growing national consensus about the project,” and pointed to a Fox News poll that showed wide backing.