House Republicans make another push for Keystone pipeline approval


House Republicans make another push for Keystone pipeline approval

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are making another attempt to push through approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, advancing a bill Wednesday that streamlines U.S. backing by removing the need for the White House to sign off on the project.

The bill, which passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 30 to 18, has little chance of moving through the Senate and becoming law. The Senate has expressed support for Keystone but Democrats who control the chamber are unlikely to vote for a bill that takes authority away from President Barack Obama.

The pipeline, which would cross the border between the U.S. and Canada, requires a special permit from Mr. Obama. The U.S. State Department is currently conducting a review of the proposed project.

TransCanada Corp., the Alberta-based company that wants to build Keystone, first submitted a request for U.S. approval in 2008. It then submitted an amended request in 2012 after re-routing a portion of the pipeline through the state of Nebraska. Landowners in that state believed an earlier route posed a risk to a sensitive ecological region known as the Sand Hills.

Earlier this year, the State Department released a draft environmental analysis of the new route, finding little reason to deny the project. It will finalize its review later this year, laying the foundation for a final decision.

TransCanada has already started to build the southern portion of the planned pipeline. Known as the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project, it will stretch from Cushing, Okla., to Nederland, Texas. The northern portion, which is the section requiring White House approval, would be built from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Neb.

The Republican-backed bill, known as the Northern Route Approval Act, would eliminate the need for Keystone XL to receive a special permit from Mr. Obama. It would also expedite legal challenges that are almost guaranteed to surface if Mr. Obama allows the project to move forward.

Of the 30 committee members who voted for the bill, four of them were Democrats.

While the bill has little chance of becoming law, it allows Republicans to score political points on an issue they think Americans support.

Off Capitol Hill, meanwhile, environmental groups are stepping up their efforts to fight Keystone. These groups, which are generally opposed to fossil fuels, say the oil to be transported through Keystone--known as tar-sands oil--is particularly bad for the environment and presents a greater risk of oil spills.

A pipeline owned by ExxonMobil ruptured in Arkansas late last month, releasing thick rivers of oil into a nearby residential neighborhood. The pipeline was carrying heavy crude oil from Canada that has roughly the same characteristics as the tar-sands oil that Keystone would transport.

Earlier this week, a consortium of environmental groups--including the influential Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace--urged the State Department to recalculate how many greenhouse-gas emissions would be released as a result of Keystone's construction, saying an earlier analysis underestimated the total emissions.

TransCanada and their allies say Mr. Obama should approve the project because it would lessen U.S. dependence on Middle East oil and create jobs.

Dow Jones Newswires

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