Senate Republicans set hearing to approve Keystone XL legislation

A U.S. Senate committee soon to be led by Republicans will hold a hearing next week on legislation to approve TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, bypassing the current review by the Obama administration.

The energy committee hearing on Jan. 7, a day after Congress reconvenes, will help get a Keystone measure “to the floor as soon as possible,” Robert Dillon, a spokesman for the panel, said Wednesday in an e-mail.

Keystone, proposed in 2008 to carry oil sands from Alberta to U.S. refineries along the Gulf of Mexico coast, has fuelled a debate over jobs, energy security and the environment. Backers say it will create jobs and reduce U.S. reliance on imported oil. Environmentalists say the pipeline would worsen climate change by encouraging development of oil sands, which are more carbon intensive than other forms of oil.

President Barack Obama’s administration is continuing its review, though a final recommendation after environmental reviews has been paused until resolution of a court challenge to the pipeline’s path in Nebraska.

Pipeline supporters came within a vote of passing on Nov. 18 a similar measure that would let TransCanada build the cross-border project, as proposed. The Senate bill failed even with pressure from co-sponsor and Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu, who cajoled colleagues to back the measure as a boost to her re-election. Landrieu lost a run-off election on Dec. 6.

Senator Mitch McConnell, incoming majority leader, has vowed to make Keystone the first bill passed in 2015. House Speaker John Boehner also plans to push a bill.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who takes over as energy committee chairman after Republicans won control of the Senate, intends to move quickly to get action on the bill, Dillon said. A vote by the full chamber probably won’t occur until after Obama’s State of the Union speech on Jan. 20.

Democratic Representatives Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Raul Grijalva of Arizona in a letter Tuesday asked Boehner not to rush a vote on the bill.

“It is our understanding that you may schedule” a vote “during the first two weeks” of the Congress, they wrote.

Bloomberg News

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