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TransCanada Pipeline Bill Would Force U.S. Permit Within 60 Days

Senate Republicans introduced a bill that would require the Secretary of State to issue a U.S. permit for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days unless President Barack Obama decides against it.

The U.S. State Department has delayed a decision for at least a year on the $7 billion pipeline from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. The department, which has jurisdiction because the project would cross an international border, said Nov. 10 it would study an alternative route to avoid the Sandhills area of Nebraska that overlays an aquifer supplying drinking water to 1.5 million people.

“President Obama has the opportunity to help create 20,000 new jobs now,” Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, said today during a press conference in Washington. “He’s delayed the decision until after the 2012 election, apparently in fear of offending a part of his political base.”

TransCanada, based in Calgary, said Nov. 14 it would cooperate with Nebraska officials to revise the path. The 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) project would help decrease U.S. dependence on crude from the Middle East, Lugar and Senators John Hoeven of North Dakota, David Vitter of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Mike Johanns of Nebraska said in a statement.

The Senate bill “provides adequate time for Nebraska to shift the route of the pipeline” while allowing construction to begin elsewhere, according to the statement on Lugar’s website. “The State Department conducted more than three years of rigorous analysis and was widely expected to approve KXL by the end of this year -- before the White House came under environmentalist pressure.”

National Interest

The legislation gives Obama the option to block a permit by publicly stating the pipeline isn’t in the national interest.

The department announced the postponement of a decision slated to be made by next month after environmentalists led by and the Sierra Club surrounded the White House Nov. 6 to protest. The groups asked the president to reject the investment because it would carry crude from oil sands, which they said contributes more carbon emissions associated with climate change than conventional production.

Pressure also came from Nebraska politicians, including Republican Governor Dave Heineman, who called a special legislative session that opened Nov. 1 to consider ways the state could change the route.

The bill requires the pipeline permit to contain protection for the environment and states’ rights.

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