City Hall

Keystone XL Pipeline Legislation's Amendments Draw Debate

Lisa Herbold said she made the changes to get a unanimous vote.

By Hayat Norimine April 4, 2017

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Seattle City Council in January 2017


Seattle council members unanimously passed legislation to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and avoid contracts with financial institutions that support it Monday with mayor Ed Murray's support. Council members said Murray's concurrence was only because of amendments that activists criticized as "watered-down language."

Council member Lisa Herbold said she added language that got a unanimous vote on the council and addressed concerns the city couldn't find a bank to meet its needs for payroll. 

Council members also said Murray, who was also added to the legislation, would not have concurred with the resolution as is but agreed when Herbold's amendments were included. Herbold said she didn't find that out until after she had proposed them. Here they are:

The Seattle City Council is concerned that does not support doing business with financial institutions that invest in the Keystone XL Pipeline or otherwise provide financial services to TransCanada for that project is in conflict with our commitment to city investment policies that state "In managing its investments, the city shall seek opportunities to conduct business with institutions that, by their charter and ongoing business practices, seek to benefit the common good." 

"We have an obligation to our employees to be able to pay them, and we need a bank to be able to pay them," Herbold said, explaining that only 10 banks are currently eligible to bid with the city. That doesn't necessarily mean that they will bid.

Council member Debora Juarez brought up her experience defending tribal rights and defended the amendments. The legislation needs to be able to withstand legal scrutiny if the council wants it to be effective, and "I do know what I'm talking about," she said. 

The council passed the amendments in a narrower 6-2 vote. (Sally Bagshaw was absent.) Kshama Sawant and Bruce Harrell both voted against them—saying they wanted stronger language that clearly stated opposition to the pipeline—but ultimately supported the legislation with the amendments included. 

"If council members do not support [the Keystone XL pipeline], then that's the resolution we should vote on and we should not be afraid to say so," Sawant said. 

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