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Senators ramp up pressure on Obama to approve pipeline

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 7:32 p.m.

WASHINGTON — More than half the Senate on Wednesday urged quick approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ramping up pressure on President Obama to move ahead with the project just days after he promised in his inaugural address to respond vigorously to the threat of climate change.

A letter signed by 53 senators said Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's approval of a revised route through his state puts the long-delayed project squarely in the president's hands.

“We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security,” the letter said, adding that the pipeline “has gone through the most exhaustive environmental scrutiny of any pipeline” in U.S. history. The $7 billion project would carry oil from Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

“There is no reason to deny or further delay this long-studied project,” said the letter, which was initiated by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., and signed by 44 Republicans and nine Democrats. Another Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, supports the pipeline but did not sign the letter.

At a news conference, senators said the pipeline should be a key part of Obama's “all of the above” energy policy, in which he has expressed support for a range of energy sources from oil and natural gas to wind, solar and coal.

The Obama administration has twice thwarted the 1,700-mile pipeline, which Calgary-based TransCanada first proposed in late 2008. The State Department delayed the project in late 2011 after environmental groups and others raised concerns about a proposed route through environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska.

Under pressure from congressional Republicans to make a decision on the pipeline, Obama blocked it in January 2012, saying his concerns about the Nebraska route had not been resolved. TransCanada submitted a new application last spring.

The State Department said Tuesday it does not expect to complete a review of the project before the end of March. The State Department has jurisdiction over the pipeline because it crosses a U.S. border.

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