Majority of senators back Keystone XL pipeline

Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:17pm EST
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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of more than half the 100-member Senate has urged President Barack Obama to approve the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would connect Canadian oil sands to refineries in Texas.

"This is about something that Americans want. It's about energy for this country," Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, told reporters on Wednesday.

Hoeven and Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, wrote a letter to Obama, signed by 51 other senators, urging him to approve the TransCanada Corp project, which has been pending for nearly four and a half years.

The letter came a day after Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approved a revised route for the pipeline to travel through the state while avoiding ecologically sensitive areas.

"Nebraska has now addressed the outstanding concerns you raised when you denied the permit, and we therefore urge to finish expeditiously the review process and approve the pipeline" the letter said.

Hoeven and Baucus represent the booming Bakken oil region. The $5.3 billion pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day including some from the Bakken. The southern section of the project, from Texas to Oklahoma, is already being built since it did not require a federal permit as it does not cross the national border.

The two senators organized a similar bipartisan effort in November that drew signatures from 18 senators, nine Republicans and nine Democrats.

Nine Democrats also signed Wednesday's letter, but this time were joined by 44 Republicans who urged Obama not to delay.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a news conference at the White House in Washington, January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst