UPDATE 2-U.S. lawmakers push bills to approve Keystone pipeline

Fri Mar 15, 2013 6:53pm EDT
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By Timothy Gardner and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON/LEMONT, Ill., March 15 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers in both chambers of Congress said Friday they are moving forward with bills introduced this week to pluck the power of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Canada's oil sands to Texas, from the hands of the Obama administration.

Republican Representative Lee Terry from Nebraska introduced a bipartisan bill on Friday to approve TransCanada Corp's 800,000 barrels per day pipeline, which has been held up in the review process for more than four years.

Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, said he expects the House will vote on the bill by the end of May.

The House measure is a companion to a bipartisan bill introduced on Thursday by Senators John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, and Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat.

Hoeven said he believes the Senate bill currently has more than 50 votes of the 60 needed for passage in the 100-seat chamber, and said he expected the bill would easily get more supporters.

If lawmakers don't force Obama's hand early, the president is expected to make a decision around August or later, after the State Department finalizes an environmental assessment of the project.

The Keystone decision is one of the first big tests for Obama in his second term on energy and environmental issues.   Continued...