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Lawmakers apply pipeline pressure

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 6:48 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Buoyed by a recent report from the State Department, a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers urged President Obama on Tuesday to finally approve the Keystone XL pipeline, saying the project would lead to more jobs and reduce reliance on foreign oil.

“This pipeline is essential,” Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said. “Time for study is over. Action to build it is now.”

Landrieu and other supporters of the project, including GOP lawmakers, labor groups and oil and gas officials, held a news conference on Capitol Hill to lobby the White House to approve the long-awaited project.

“The time has come — we need a decision,” Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota said.

Obama has said the pipeline's environmental impact will be important to his decision.

On Monday, White House officials said the review process for the project includes more steps, including a period for public comment.

“We're going to let the process run its course, and I think it's important to note... that this is a step along the way,” White House spokesman James Carney said. “It is not the completion of the process.”

The controversial 1,700-mile pipeline would transport thousands of barrels of crude oil each day from Canada to the Gulf Coast for refining.

Supporters of the pipeline touted a report released by the State Department on Friday that said approval or denial of the project probably won't affect the rate of extraction of heavy-carbon tar sands oil in Canada.

Release of the report triggered a 90-day federal process for determining if the project is in the nation's interest.

“This is an opportunity for the president to really do something that has bipartisan support,” said Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. “It has union support and now the environmental concerns have been totally answered. He has every reason from an environmental standpoint, from a job-creating standpoint, from an energy policy standpoint to go forward with this.”

Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer said questions about climate-related concerns are all answered in the State Department report.

“I would take the 2,000 pages of facts that are in that report over hyperbole any day of the week,” he said.

Keystone's supporters say the $5.3 billion project would add 42,000 jobs across the country and generate much-needed tax revenue in several states.

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