With the prospect for thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday to speed up a final federal decision on the stalled C$7 billion, 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline proposed to run from Alberta, Canada to Gulf of Mexico (GOM) refineries in the United States.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and a phalanx of Republican Senate co-authors introduced the North American Energy Security Act in response to the Obama Administration announcing earlier in November that it would hold off making a decision on the project sponsored by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. until 2013, pushing back by more than a year a pending decision at the U.S. State Department, which needs to rule on the project’s potential contribution to national U.S. interests.

Saying President Obama is “putting politics ahead of national interest,” Lugar and his fellow Republican senators urged passage of the legislation to move up a final decision after “more than three years of rigorous analysis” that was supposed to result in the project getting a final decision this December. The White House now has “caved in to pressure” from environmental groups, the senators allege.

In the wake of the decision to put off a decision, TransCanada has been scrambling to find a way around objectionable routes through the Sandhills region in Nebraska and move up completing a key portion of the pipeline between large storage facilities in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast refineries (see Shale Daily, Nov. 16).

Lugar’s proposal would attempt to force the Obama administration to grant a permit to the Keystone XL project within 60 days unless it is determined that the project is not in the national interest.

TransCanada would have to adhere to its own plans as submitted for the project and the environmental impact statement issued by the State Department on Aug. 26 this year. Before the latest hurdle, TransCanada senior executives were expecting a final approval before the end of the year with construction beginning early next year (see Shale Daily, Nov. 3).

The proposed law also would recognize whatever deal can be worked out regarding the Sandhills rerouting in Nebraska. The Obama administration is mandated to “coordinate with Nebraska and provide any necessary data and reasonable technical assistance” germane to the final routing.

Lugar and his colleagues emphasized what TransCanada has been promoting for several years — namely, this is the largest infrastructure project ready for construction in the United States, it is privately funded and requires no new government expenditures, and it will create up to 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs during the two-year construction period.

The project strengthens national security and promotes economic growth, according to Lugar and his co-authors, Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), David Vitter (R-LA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).