By Timothy Gardner and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON/LEMONT, Ill., March 15 U.S. lawmakers
in both chambers of Congress said Friday they are moving forward
with bills introduced this week to pluck the power of approving
the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Canada's oil
sands to Texas, from the hands of the Obama administration.
Republican Representative Lee Terry from Nebraska introduced
a bipartisan bill on Friday to approve TransCanada Corp's
800,000 barrels per day pipeline, which has been held
up in the review process for more than four years.
Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce
committee, said he expects the House will vote on the bill by
the end of May.
The House measure is a companion to a bipartisan bill
introduced on Thursday by Senators John Hoeven, a North Dakota
Republican, and Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat.
Hoeven said he believes the Senate bill currently has more
than 50 votes of the 60 needed for passage in the 100-seat
chamber, and said he expected the bill would easily get more
If lawmakers don't force Obama's hand early, the president
is expected to make a decision around August or later, after the
State Department finalizes an environmental assessment of the
The Keystone decision is one of the first big tests for
Obama in his second term on energy and environmental issues.
Proponents say the decision will show whether Obama supports
the North American energy boom and the jobs it creates.
Opponents from environmental groups say it will show whether
Obama is sincere in his promises to take steps to curb climate
The pipeline will carry crude oil from Canada's oil sands, a
type of oil production environmental groups argue could
accelerate climate change.
About 20 people holding soggy protest signs stood in the
rain outside the compound housing the research laboratory near
Chicago where Obama gave his first energy speech of his second
term on Friday.
The White House has steadfastly declined to comment on the
approval process, but on Friday a spokesman sought to downplay
the importance of the decision.
"There have been thousands of miles of pipelines that have
been built while President Obama has been in office, and I think
the point is, is that it hasn't necessarily had a significant
impact one way or the other on addressing climate change,"
spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Earnest said there was "no question" that targeted
investments to spur production of green energy or cut oil
consumption would be more meaningful in the long term to cutting
climate-changing greenhouse gases.
Obama on Friday proposed a $2 billion, 10-year research fund
for cars and trucks that run on fuel other than gasoline.
"It's going to require some significant investments like the
investments that we're talking about today for us to make
progress on this," he said.