Republicans Advance Bill to Push Keystone XL Over Obama’s Denial

U.S. House Republicans advanced legislation stripping President Barack Obama’s power for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline and giving authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33-20 yesterday for legislation that would require FERC to approve the $7 billion project within 30 days, provided the project is deemed safe.

Republicans want to begin work on the 1,661 mile (2,673 kilometer) oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Obama in November delayed work to consider an alternate route. The House panel plans to add the bill to a measure on energy and infrastructure, with a vote planned this month.

“The president left us no choice” because the review of pushes a final decision until after the presidential election, Representative Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said at today’s meeting.

Pipeline backers, including labor unions, have said the project may create as many as 20,000 jobs. The Keystone project threatens to contaminate drinking-water supplies in the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, environmental groups including the Sierra Club of San Francisco say.

The House measure “simply turns FERC into a yes-man” for Keystone, Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and committee member, said.

Markey Defeated

The Energy and Commerce Committee defeated a proposal from Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, to prevent most oil and bitumen transported by the pipeline from being exported after arriving on the Gulf Coast. The Republican-led panel also rejected an amendment by Representative Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, that would have barred Calgary-based TransCanada from seizing private land for the pipeline using the government’s powers.

Terry’s bill would strip the Interior Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from their oversight authority for the pipeline, officials from the two agencies told a House subcommittee Feb. 3.

The measure raises “serious questions” about legal authority, Kerri-Ann Jones, a State Department assistant secretary, said at a hearing Jan. 25. FERC doesn’t have the authority to act on the location of pipelines, and the bill’s 30-day deadline doesn’t allow enough time to review the project, Jeffrey Wright, FERC’s director of the Office of Energy Projects, said.

“What bothers me is how roughshod this is,” Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, said of Terry’s legislation. “No matter what the facts are, they don’t matter.”

The bill is H.R. 3548.

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