WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate has rejected a proposal to fast-track the approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Pipeline supporters needed 60 votes to win approval for the bill, but it went down to defeat by a margin of 59-41.
Had it passed, U.S. President Barack Obama was widely expected to veto the bill, which was designed to short-circuit the White House's own environmental review process.
Last week, Obama suggested that Keystone XL would have a negligible positive impact on the U.S. economy, an assertion denied by both TransCanada Corp., the company behind it, and the Canadian government.
On Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford insisted otherwise as he expressed disappointment in the result of the vote.
"This project will create jobs, long term economic prosperity, energy security and environmental stewardship on both sides of our shared border,'' he said in a statement.
"Keystone XL has strong public support, and the U.S. State Department has, on multiple occasions, acknowledged that it will be environmentally sound.''
Further, Rickford continued, the State Department has already concluded that the project would not by itself result in increased output from the Alberta oilsands, and would replace "insecure sources'' of crude with "a secure, reliable supply from Canada, North Dakota and Montana.''
TransCanada Corp. has also long insisted the project would create tens of thousands of U.S. construction jobs.
Greenpeace Canada, long an opponent of the project, cheered the Senate for rejecting the proposal on environmental grounds.
Keystone XL "would enable the production of over 24 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year while threatening communities and their water supplies,'' said spokesman Mike Hudema.
"Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper should read the warning signs and catch up to the rest of the world already acting to address the growing climate crisis.''
As a result of the vote, the question of whether to approve the project, which would transport bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, is not likely to resurface until the new year.
That's when the pro-Keystone Republicans will take over control of the Senate, wrested from the Democrats in midterm elections earlier this month.
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