Keystone XL bill gets 44 senators on board

WASHINGTON Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:32am EST

A group of demonstrators rally against the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline outside President Obama's fundraiser at the W Hotel in San Francisco, October 25, 2011.REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A group of demonstrators rally against the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline outside President Obama's fundraiser at the W Hotel in San Francisco, October 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of 44 senators, all but one Republican, have signed on to proposed legislation that would authorize the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline despite the refusal of President Barack Obama to advance the project.

Republican Senator John Hoeven is set to introduce the bill on Monday that, if passed into law, would allow work to begin immediately on all but the sensitive Nebraska portion of TransCanada's $7 billion controversial project.

It's not yet clear how the bill will advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the lone Democrat to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill, but other Democratic senators have in the past expressed support for the project.

Obama put the pipeline on the backburner earlier in January, saying the administration needed more time to review the environmental impact in Nebraska, where the state government is evaluating a new route after rejecting an initial plan that sent the line through a sensitive aquifer region.

The bill, led by Hoeven, Richard Lugar and David Vitter, incorporates an environmental review done by the U.S. State Department, and allows Nebraska time to find a new route.

"It will create thousands of jobs, help control fuel prices at the pump and reduce our reliance on Middle East oil," Hoeven said in a statement.

Environmentalists pushed for Obama to block the pipeline because they believe oil sands crude is a bigger polluter than other grades of oil. They have also accused TransCanada and its supporters of inflating job creation numbers from the project.

Obama has not rejected the project altogether, and TransCanada has said it plans to apply for another presidential permit. But that process would stretch beyond the 2012 election.

The new Senate bill -- which would require Obama's signature to become law -- would bypass Obama and let instead Congress approve the project. A study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said Congress has the constitutional right to legislate permits for cross-border pipelines.

The State Department has said authority for the pipeline should stay with the administration because of the foreign policy, economic, environmental and safety issues involved.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives also are considering legislation to advance the project.

House Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday that Keystone legislation could be included in a highway and infrastructure bill that Congress will consider in February.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Comments (16)
Eideard wrote:
You do realize the essential function of this pipeline is to bring crude to refineries – thence to be sold and delivered to China via ship.

No change in American consumption or cost.

Jan 30, 2012 11:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
chrax wrote:
Willing to bet Obama is only stalling until after the election in order to lock down the environmentalist vote. Ideally, I would hate to see this pipeline go up, but the oil is getting transported one way or the other and a pipeline is certainly more efficient than shipping it via trucks or tankers. I suppose it will create some jobs as well.

Jan 30, 2012 11:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
wildbiker wrote:
There shouldn’t be a problem getting full Senate approval. The bill has everything Obama and Clinton said was needed to allow the administration to study the environmental impact in Nebraska. And, it allows for alternate routes and environmental reviews of those routes. Will Reid let it come to the Senate floor? I doubt it. He has Obama’s back and will not let this possible embarassment happen.

Jan 30, 2012 11:50am EST  --  Report as abuse
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