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Senate Republicans Push on Offshore Drilling, Keystone XL

Senate Republicans introduced a bill to expand offshore drilling, cut regulations and override U.S. State Department rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline as both parties seek to make energy a winning election-year issue.

The Senate legislation is made up of provisions the Republican-led House has already passed and that haven’t advanced in the Senate, which is led by Democrats. White House aides have President Barack Obama has opposed legislative efforts to speed Keystone and expand offshore drilling.

“This administration and congressional Democrats have repeatedly taken steps to restrict and inhibit American energy production,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said today in a statement.

The legislation adds to a list of energy bills introduced by members of both parties that probably have little chance of advancing this year, given the congressional calendar and disagreement between parties. Lawmakers plan to begin a five-week recess on Aug. 3, and then adjourn before the election.

Republicans have made unsuccessful attempts to force approval of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone project, which would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

President Barack Obama rejected a permit in January over concerns a rupture might threaten an aquifer in Nebraska. The administration is reviewing a new proposal from the Calgary-based company.

Democrats, Taxes

Democrats have run into obstacles in pushing legislation to repeal billions of dollars in tax subsidies for large oil and gas companies.

At a news conference today, Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said Republicans want to protect tax “giveaways” to oil and gas companies that make billions of dollars in profit.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who would take over leadership of the energy committee if Republicans take control of the Senate in November, introduced legislation yesterday to expand offshore drilling by giving oil and gas producers greater access to the waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, along Alaska’s shore and the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama’s Interior Department plans as many as 15 lease sales in its 2012-2017 offshore development plan.

Murkowski said in a statement her bill would improve energy security and create jobs, and “send a clear message that America is serious about developing its energy resources.”

Jobs and energy security have been cited by Republican leaders as the party pushes greater development of fossil-fuel resources such as oil, coal and natural gas.

The legislation passed by the House yesterday would schedule 29 sales by 2017 with more drilling off the California and Virginia coastlines.

The administration said it “strongly opposes” the House measure and senior Obama advisers would recommend a veto, according to a July 23 statement of administration policy.

Obama has said he supports an “all-of-the-above” energy plan that includes fossil fuels, nuclear power and clean-energy innovation.

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