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Senate committee advances Keystone XL pipeline for vote

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:24 p.m.

A Senate committee has approved a bill that would bypass President Obama and permit the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, part of a drive by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to force a vote by the full Senate.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 12-10 on Wednesday for legislation that would let Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. build, then operate the $5.4 billion Canada-to-U.S. oil pipeline that has been snagged in disputes for more than five years. Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Chairman Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who helped write the bill, joined all of the Republicans in backing the legislation.

“This is about what our future energy policy should look like,” said Landrieu, pointing to the need to boost construction employment and expand oil imports from Canada and Mexico, both longtime allies.

The measure's prospects are not good, however. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who sets the agenda for chamber action, has not agreed to bring the issue up for a vote. Obama could veto it if it did pass.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the committee action as a “political show vote.”

“The question isn't whether energy-state Democrats can support a Keystone bill in committee,” McConnell, R-Ky., wrote in an e-mailed statement. “It's whether or not they'll continue to stand with their party and their leader in blocking the full Senate from voting on it, or whether they'll stand up for jobs and demand a vote.”

Public protests, legal tussles and delays have plagued the Keystone XL pipeline for years.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for advocating action on climate change, wrote in Rolling Stone magazine's June 18 issue that Obama “has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone-XL pipeline.”

Gore does not say what signals Obama has sent on Keystone.

Meanwhile, TransCanada Corp., the company behind the project, will need to jump another hurdle when the permit it needs to build in South Dakota expires on June 29, InsideClimate News reported.

The reapplication process will open the door for public comments and could lead to a hearing, adding further delays to the pipeline's review, now in its sixth year.

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