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GOP-Led Senate Moves Toward Keystone XL Approval; Obama Threatens Veto

The first day of GOP control of the U.S. Senate started off on a testy note Tuesday after a pair of lawmakers introduced a bill to approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and President Obama promised to veto it.

On Tuesday, U.S. Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced a bill, S-1, which authorizes TransCanada Corp. to construct and operate the pipeline. It would run from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast (see Shale Daily, May 7, 2012). Keystone XL would transport 830,000 b/d to U.S. refineries, including 100,000 b/d from the Bakken Shale.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Hoeven and Manchin, both members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said they are working to navigate S-1 through committee and bring it to the Senate floor for debate and possible amendments.

The Senate energy committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday morning and take a final vote Thursday morning. But a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Durbin had objected -- on behalf of an unnamed Democratic colleague in the Senate -- to the hearing being held Wednesday.

"While this means we won't be having a hearing tomorrow, it does not slow down the Keystone XL floor process," said Durbin spokesman Robert Dillon.

The bill formally recognizes an environmental impact statement (EIS) released by the U.S. State Department nearly one year ago that concluded Keystone XL would have no significant impact on the environment and would not affect Canadian oilsands development (see Shale Daily, Jan. 31, 2014).

"Working with Canada we can achieve true North American energy security and also help our allies," Hoeven said. Manchin added that he was "encouraged that the Keystone XL pipeline project will come to a vote on the Senate floor as one of the first pieces of legislation for the 114th Congress."

But the White House prepared for battle. According to reports, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would veto any bill authorizing the pipeline. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) added that Republicans don't have enough votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto of S-1.

Despite the proclaimed rigid stances, there could be room down the road after all the theatrics are over for a compromise bill that would add in some renewables supports to  make it more palatable for the administration.

"President Obama's veto threat comes as no surprise," Hoeven said Tuesday. "He has held the Keystone XL pipeline project up for six years with endless bureaucratic delays; his strategy has been defeat through delay. That's unfortunate because the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved on its merits. It’s about energy, jobs, economic growth and national security."

The American Petroleum Institute (API) applauded the Senate action and urged Obama to sign the bill should it pass.

"Middle class jobs matter and lawmakers are acknowledging that in a big way by kicking off 2015 with Keystone XL," said API CEO Jack Gerard. "Forty-two thousand good paying American jobs are at stake and our nation needs to build critical energy infrastructure now for the energy demands of the future. We are confident a Keystone XL bill will be sent to the president's desk and we urge him to finally say yes to this job creating project."

Last November, a bill to approve Keystone XL fell one vote short of passage in the U.S. Senate (see Shale Daily, Nov. 19, 2014). The 59-41 vote included all 45 Republicans then in the chamber, plus 14 Democrats.

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