UPDATE 2-Majority of U.S. senators back Keystone XL pipeline

Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:15pm EST
 
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* Fifty three Senators sign letter, up from 18 in November

* Obama expected to decide fate of pipeline later this year

* Letter comes a day after Nebraska approves pipeline

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of more than half the 100-member U.S. 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.   Continued...