03/13/2014 07:15 pm ET Updated Mar 13, 2014

Senate Dems Introduce Longshot Bills To Tackle Keystone Pipeline Problems


WASHINGTON – Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced two bills on Thursday related to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The first would require any oil pumped through the pipeline to stay in the United States. The second, co-sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), would require pipeline operators transporting tar sands oil crude to pay into a federal oil spill clean-up fund.

The first bill gets at a point of contention for opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, who have argued that much of the oil shipped down to refineries in Texas will be exported abroad rather than supporting American energy independence, as the pipeline's supporters have suggested it would.

Markey mentioned that measure -- which he had previously proposed as an amendment to another bill when he was still in the House -- at a hearing on Keystone Thursday morning. "We should not be a middleman to export the dirtiest oil in the world to the thirstiest foreign nations," he said.

The second bill would change the tax code to include oil from the tar sands -- the type of oil that the Keystone XL would carry -- in the definition of "crude oil." It is not currently included in that definition, so companies that produce, ship, and refine tar sands oil are not required to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is used to pay for cleanups in the event of a spill. For conventional crude, companies pay an 8-cent-per-barrel excise tax into the fund.

Markey and Levin called their bill the "Tar Sands Tax Loophole Elimination Act."

"If spilled into the environment, oil produced from tar sands is just as damaging as oil produced by other means, if not more so," said Levin in a statement. He referred to the 2010 oil spill in Michigan, when a pipeline broke and spilled more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Talmadge Creek, which flows into the Kalamazoo River.

"Cleanup of that oil spill is still under way four years later," said Levin. "Surely producers of oil from tar sands should help contribute to the costs of cleaning up these spills -- just like producers of other oil must do."

While the bills could possibly pass through the Democratic-controlled Senate, they likely wouldn't make it through the Republican-controlled House. The Obama administration is currently deciding whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. A decision is not expected until late May, at the earliest.



Keystone XL Pipeline Report Highlights