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Keystone Pipeline Bill Passes House, Lacks Match in U.S. Senate

Keystone Pipeline Advances as House Passes Bill on Drilling
TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline is opposed by groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, that say the crude to be carried is corrosive and air pollution will increase during production and refining. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Legislation that would force U.S. approval of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline and open Atlantic waters to offshore drilling passed the House, a measure that the Senate doesn’t plan to consider.

The bill, approved 237-187 yesterday, would strip President Barack Obama’s authority to decide on TransCanada’s $7 billion project and give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 30 days to approve the pipeline after it’s deemed safe.

Obama rejected Keystone last month and asked the Calgary-based company to find a route that wouldn’t endanger a Nebraska aquifer.

“This legislation would create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs for American workers,” Representative Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said during a floor debate. “It’s time to secure our own future with American-made energy.”

The measure is part of the House Republicans’ three-bill plan to add jobs, lower energy imports and finance highways and mass-transit programs. A portion of the revenue would come from giving oil producers access to federal waters off the coasts of California, Florida and Virginia. The House plans to complete action on the measures after taking a recess next week.

The House and Senate are examining proposals for funding projects from non-transportation sources. The House will next consider a measure forcing federal employees to pay more toward their pensions. The Senate began debating a separate measure last week, which doesn’t include a Keystone provision.

Wildlife Refuge

The House bill passed yesterday would permit energy production in a part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and oil-shale deposits of Colorado.

“We all know these places are not going to be developed in the near term at all,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said during a hearing at the House’s natural resources panel this week. “They will not fund the transportation needs of the United States of America.”

The bill would raise $4.28 billion by 2022, less than 10 percent of the revenue needed to pay for transportation projects, Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, senior Democrat on the committee, said on Feb. 15.

Democrats and environmental groups said the beaches of California and Florida are too pristine to risk being spoiled by an oil spill, while oil-shale production may taint Colorado’s drinking water sources.

NRDC Opposition

Keystone XL is opposed by groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, that say the crude to be carried is corrosive and air pollution will increase during production and refining.

The number of people needed to operate and maintain the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) pipeline may be as few as 20, according to the U.S. State Department, or as many as a few hundred, according to TransCanada.

Senate Republicans on Feb. 15 introduced legislation that would bar the Obama administration from using the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve unless Keystone XL pipeline is approved.

The bill is H.R. 3408. The other measures are H.R. 3813 and H.R. 7.

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