House panel advances Keystone pipeline plan
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A plan to fast-track the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline was passed by a key committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, as Republicans made yet another attempt to spur approval of the project that has become a major issue in the 2012 elections.
The bill would wrest decision-making on the pipeline from the Obama administration and hand it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which would be compelled to issue approval permits quickly on the Canada-to-Texas project.
But the plan would need to clear several more congressional hurdles, including getting through Democratic opposition in the Senate, before it could land on President Barack Obama's desk for approval.
In a decision last month that pleased environmental groups, Obama blocked TransCanada's $7 billion project, citing the need for further review of its route as the line would have traversed sensitive lands and an aquifer in Nebraska.
Republicans have made the pipeline a symbol of what they believe are unnecessary regulations that are stifling job creation and energy production in the United States.
On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33-20 to send its Keystone bill to the full House, where it will likely become part of a highway and infrastructure funding bill that House Speaker John Boehner wants to see passed this month.
Republicans also have not ruled out trying to attach a Keystone provision to must-pass payroll tax-cut legislation.
"We're going to use all options, so we'll see," said Fred Upton, the Republican chair of the energy committee, who is also part of a joint Senate-House conference panel working on the payroll tax-cut compromise. Continued...