House Republicans Revive Bid to Advance Keystone Pipeline

U.S. House Republicans, unsuccessful in overturning President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline permit, will try again this week, using legislation to extend highway spending for three months.

Passage in the House would give Republican leaders another chance to advance the pipeline as gasoline prices remain higher than $3.90 a gallon. Language in the legislation, which would pay for highway, bridge and transit programs through September, gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 30 days to issue a permit for the pipeline. A vote may be scheduled on April 18.

Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, said in the Republican’s April 14 weekly radio address that Keystone would “have decreased our dependence on oil from unstable regions of the world.”

The Keystone section in the highway bill is identical to legislation the House approved on Feb. 16 as part of a larger transportation package that some Republicans said cost too much.

In the Senate, Democrats on March 9 blocked an amendment to the transportation bill that effectively would approve Keystone without further federal action, with 11 Democrats joining Republicans in support.

“Gas prices have doubled under President Obama, but the Senate-passed transportation bill does nothing to help,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in an e-mailed statement.

‘Too Early’

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, said Senate leaders haven’t been able to assess whether support exists among lawmakers for the Keystone XL project if FERC is given jurisdiction to issue the permit. Senators return today after a two-week recess.

“It’s too early to say,” Jentleson said today.

The $7 billion TransCanada Corp. pipeline would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Obama rejected in January the company’s application because he said a deadline set by Congress for action, imposed after the project was delayed until 2013, didn’t allow sufficient time to weigh potential environmental risks.

Officials in Nebraska objected to the pipeline’s route across Nebraska’s Sandhills region, which overlays the Ogallala aquifer that provides drinking water for 1.5 million people.

The House highway bill would extend funding for three months. While the Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a 90-day extension before the two-week congressional recess at the end of March, the two sides have been unable to agree to a longer-term deal.

The Senate passed a two-year extension of the highway bill without language on Keystone in March. The Republican highway measure may allow the House and Senate to begin a conference committee to try to reach a compromise on the impasse.

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