Pipeline’s hot topic in days after election
WASHINGTON — Legislation to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline began racing through Congress on Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans appeared to be coming together in a challenge of President Obama’s oversight of the project.
In a series of rapid developments that unfolded just hours after Congress returned from a seven-week recess, there were indications the measure could pass and be sent to Obama sometime next week.
Republicans, victorious in Nov. 4 congressional elections in which they campaigned heavily on the need for Keystone, have been pushing for approval of the project amid objections from some Democrats.
“It is time for America to become energy independent and that is impossible without the Keystone pipeline and other pipelines like it,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Landrieu and Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican of North Dakota, introduced the bill on May 1.
Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is fighting for her political life as she awaits a runoff race early next month that will determine whether she can serve another six-year Senate term beginning in January.
Landrieu acknowledged that she had no commitment from Obama that he would sign a Keystone bill if Congress sends one to him.
Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy is challenging Landrieu for her Senate seat.
Their campaigns appeared to move from Louisiana to Washington on Wednesday as Landrieu touted her long work in favor of TransCanada Corp’s $8 billion Keystone project.
Cassidy immediately responded by introducing a nearly identical bill in the House. Other versions have passed the Republican-controlled chamber.
The Obama administration has been weighing for six years whether to approve the pipeline that would run from Canada south to the Gulf of Mexico. The project could get a court challenge in Nebraska over the pipeline’s route.
Environmentalists, an important Democratic constituency, have argued against encouraging Canada’s extraction of a crude oil that is seen as particularly polluting and will worsen global climate change problems.