* Draft bill would end need for presidential permit
* Bill backed by two House Democrats, GOP energy leaders
* Senator looking for vehicle for similar bill
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, March 7 Proponents of the Keystone
XL pipeline in the House of Representatives on Thursday outlined
a new push to take the decision on the project out of the hands
of the Obama Administration and to limit further legal and
Congressman Lee Terry, Republican from Nebraska, authored
draft legislation that would eliminate the need for a
presidential permit for the northern section of the pipeline,
which would transport Canadian oil sands crude into the United
The State Department has been weighing TransCanada's
application for a permit for the 800,000 barrel-per-day
pipeline for more than four years, repeatedly delaying the
process as environmentalists raised concerns about potential
spills from the pipeline and its impact on climate change.
The presidential permit is currently necessary because the
pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
"If we see further delays as we have in the past; Congress
is ready to act," Terry said in a statement. "This discussion
draft is part of that process."
Democrats Jim Matheson, of Utah, and John Barrow, of
Georgia, joined Terry in backing the draft bill. The Republican
chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton,
also backed the bill, as well as energy subcommittee chairman Ed
Lawmakers in Congress, led by Republicans, have continually
tried to force the approval of Keystone, which they argue would
create thousands of jobs and shore up U.S. energy security.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted
six times in favor of moving the pipeline forward, but these
efforts have ultimately not succeeded with Democrats controlling
the Senate and the White House.
In the Senate, John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota,
is looking for ways to attach similar legislation to a must-pass
bill. In January, Hoeven sent a letter to President Barack Obama
signed by 53 senators, including nine Democrats, urging him to
approve the pipeline.
Hoeven said then that if Obama did not move forward on the
line by April he would reintroduce the legislation.
Last year Hoeven introduced a measure in the Senate to give
Congress the power to approve Keystone. It got 56 votes, four
fewer than needed to pass.
The Keystone pipeline cleared a key hurdle last week, when
the State Department issued a new environmental assessment
finding that the project would not add significantly to
carbon-intensive oil sands production.
One of the main arguments environmentalists have made
against the pipeline is that it would greatly accelerate oil
sands development, exacerbating climate change.
Still, critics of the pipeline plan to push to further delay
the review process and the project will likely face legal
challenges even if approved.
Terry's draft proposal would create a 60-day deadline for
filing a claim against the pipeline and limit the lawsuits that
could be brought against it.
The proposal would also deem that the project has met the
requirements of the Endangered Species Act regarding a protected
beetle that would be affected by the pipeline and it grants
other necessary federal permits.